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Oral History

The National Gallery of Art has conducted and preserved over 250 recorded oral history interviews to further document and contribute to a larger and more diverse understanding of the history of the institution. These personal recollections capture valuable information and insight about the National Gallery that may not be documented in written records, and in some cases, they may be the only source of information about an aspect of the museum’s past.

The National Gallery of Art established its oral history program in 1987 under the direction of the National Gallery of Art Archives in preparation for its 50th anniversary celebration and at a time of workplace generational change. Since then, interviews have been conducted with trustees and donors to the National Gallery, former executive officers, retired curatorial and administrative staff, architects and others associated with design and construction of the West and East Buildings, and close observers of the National Gallery over time. Also included are some interviews that predate the oral history program. Interviews range from in-depth life histories recorded in several sessions to shorter conversations relating to a significant aspect of an individual’s career or a single phase of the history of the institution. The archives continues to manage and carry out the activities of the oral history program.

Oral History Guide

The archives makes oral history interviews available to researchers in accordance with its established access policy. The Oral History Guide (PDF 345KB) provides descriptions of interviews currently open to researchers—Interview transcripts in PDF format and audio recordings in MP3 format are available unless noted otherwise.

Interviews described in the guide are arranged primarily in categories based on the interviewee’s relationship to the institution: architects, building consultants, and construction staff; artists and art material experts; executive officers; observers and associates of the National Gallery; staff and volunteers; and trustees and donors. Following these categories is one topical series focusing on the phenomenal events surrounding the Johannes Vermeer and Van Gogh’s Van Goghs exhibitions in the late 1990s.

Interviews within each category are listed alphabetically by interviewee name. An alphabetical index of all interviewees follows at the end of the guide.

For access to these interviews or for more information about the oral history program, please contact [email protected].

Oral History Guide (PDF 345KB)