National Museum of Asian Art Archives

Still Prints of Asia Street view in Bhoondi circa 1900

The National Museum of Asian Art Archives strives to be a premier resource for the study of Asian art provenance and scholarship. It collects, preserves, and makes available documentary and visual materials related to the histories of our collections and of Asian arts and cultures. The Archives' mission is to collect, preserve, and make available documentary materials that support the holdings and activities of the museum. Archives' staff arrange and describe collections for research use, create and maintain research tools, and publicize the collections in an effort to make these materials available to the staff of the two galleries, research scholars, students, and the general public.

Materials in the Archives are rich and diverse and include the personal and professional papers of preeminent art historians, archaeologists, artists, dealers, and collectors. The collections are also rich in photographs, ranging from rare salt prints of the 1850s to contemporary ilfochromes of the 1990s. Forming a treasure trove of raw material for analysis are letters, writings and journals, scrapbooks, clippings, drawings and sketchbooks, financial material, rubbings, and squeezes of inscriptions. The Archives houses over 140 collections, amounting to nearly 1,000 linear feet, with materials dating from the early nineteenth century to the present.

Highlights: Collections in the Archives include the papers of founder Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919); West Asian field records of archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879-1948); a collection assembled by Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970) for the study of Islamic art and culture; and the papers of Freer staff member Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) that chronicle his expeditions to China from 1923 to 1934. Significant documentation in the Freer Papers relates to James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), making the Archives a major repository for the study of that artist. Photographic holdings include glass-plate negatives of the Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908); Antoin Sevruguin's visual record of Qajar dynasty Iran; the Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection, an extraordinary assemblage of early photography of Japan; and The People of India, a series of photographic illustrations that formed one of the first major ethnographic studies produced by the camera.

The Archives' catalog records, electronic finding aids and digital holdings may be found at

National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Room 2062
1050 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20560

Mailing Address
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
P.O. Box 37012
Room 2062 
MRC 707
Washington, DC 20013-7012

202.357.4911 fax

National Museum of Asian Art