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Rectory School

National Museum of American History
Print with red and white ink and a simple border on cream colored paper. Left side of check contains small view of the Rectory School of Hamden, Connecticut. Depicted are promenaders and horseback riders on the road in front of an iron fence that encloses the school grounds and two story buildings.

School Builders

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Design for a Room Interior

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Interior of a student's room showing chairs, a smock, book cases and an arrangement of objects. Semi abstract rendering. Signed (in pencil), lower right: "Warren."

District School House

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Amish School House

Smithsonian American Art Museum

School's Out

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Crite thought of himself as an artist-reporter whose assignment was to capture the daily lives of ordinary people. His skill as an acute observer of American life is apparent in School's Out, which shows dozens of children leaving the annex of Everett elementary school in Boston's South End at a time when boys and girls were taught separately. Although Crite acknowledged that School's Out may reflect a romanticized view, it also presents a universal statement about community, stability, and the bonds of family life.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012

East Baltimore Documentary Survey Project

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Cabin Interior

National Air and Space Museum
Cabin interior, December 13, 1972. Apollo 17 recovery. USS Ticonderoga

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Wooden school desk from Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Wood and iron school desk with a foldable seat. The desk is attached at the back, behind the seat. The curved seat is made of five (5) close-fitting slats. Grooves cut into the sides of each slat allow them to link together like puzzle pieces. The seat back consists of a single board, at the very top. Other boards are possibly missing. The desk top contains a single wood board, though others are likely missing. The board has a round hole on the right for an inkwell and an oblong groove in the center for holding a writing implement. The desk top and seat components are attached to two (2) iron side supports with arms to support the desk top and an axle that rotates the seat. A support board connects the two (2) pieces at the back, below the level of the seat. The ironwork features a decorative vine motif and has four (4) feet. A curved bar between the feet on each side has raised lettering that reads [SEARS ROEBUCK & CO. CHICAGO]. Also on the exterior of the ironwork, just below center is [3 / L] on the PL side and [P / R] on the PR. Raised text under each seat on the exterior is raised lettering that reads [SIMPLEX AUTOMATIC]. Raised lettering is also found on the interior side of the ironwork. Just under the seat on the PR side is [3&4 R SR21] and [3&4L SR22]. Behind the seat on each side is [SR 16(?)]

William Corbett's School

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Roman Village School [photomechanical print]

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
(Stamped and inscribed on back): No. 59 Aug. 6, 1901 / Roman Village School / Library of Congress / Division of Prints / A41091 / Rec'd Aug 24 1901 / The Library of Congress / Two Copies Received Aug. 6, 1901 / Copyright Entry Aug. 6, 1901 / Class F XXc. No. 3698 / Copy B.

30c Morris Township School single

National Postal Museum

The Village School

National Museum of American History
Colored print of a schoolroom scene. The schoolmaster is asleep at his desk and the children are engaged in a variety of misdeeds: fighting with each other, turning the clock ahead, drawing a caricature of the teacher, etc.

Kashmere High School Cheerleader

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smiley High School Pantherettes

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Medical School Class and Staff

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Nantucket School of Philosophy

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wide Receiver--Memorial High School

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Photograph of St. Augustine High School exterior

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Black and white photograph of St. Augustine High School exterior. The rectangular brick building is photographed at an angle, depicting the front entrance porch. The entrance consists of double doors in a recessed porch. There a large cross over the entranceway, a line of bushes in front, and a wide sidewalk. In the margins of the photograph is text that reads "N.O. La St. Augustine H.S." On the verso is a stamp that reads "Hardy S. Williams/ Industrial-PHOTOGRAPHY-Marine/ 107 Camp St. N.O. 12 LA." There is a numerical stamp "5296." In hand writing are the phrases "29 pics," "St. Augustine's High School - New Orleans, La." "41 1/2%."

The Humanitarian Side of Architecture

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson exploring the role that architects have in rebuilding communities after natural disasters. Teaches about the aftermath of the 1906 California earthquake and current efforts to rebuild after natural disasters. Students research current rebuilding efforts and present their findings.

Braroswood High School in Defeat

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Churchill High School Pep Rally

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Safe-T Semicircular School Protractor

National Museum of American History
This clear plastic semicircular protractor arrived at the Smithsonian in a clear plastic wrapper, which is stored with it. Designed for use by schoolchildren, it contains four sets of divisions, three to single degrees and the innermost one to ten degrees. The outer two divisions are marked by tens for reading left-opening angles, from 0° to 180°. The inner two divisions are marked by tens for reading right-opening angles, from 170° to 0°. A semicircular slot separates the two scales. The interior of the protractor is open. A scale along the bottom edge of the opening is divided to millimeters and marked by centimeter from 0 to 10. The outer bottom edge of the protractor is divided to sixteenths of an inch and is marked by inches from 1 to 6. The corners are slightly rounded. The object bears several marks along its diameter edge: PAT. [/] PENDING; SAFE-T TM [/] PRORUCTS [sic] Inc.; Angles Opening Left (>) [/] Use Upper Scale; VIEW-THRU TM [/] SAFE-T PLASTIC TM [/] #45780; Angles Opening Right (<) [/] Use Lower Scale; La Grange, IL [/] 60525-0692. Reference: SAFE-T Products, Inc., Innovative Safe Drawing and Measuring Instruments, about 1998. According to this catalog, these protractors sold individually for 75 cents. In 2006, the company became a subsidiary of A. Daigger & Company and its name changed to Classroom Products Warehouse.
25-48 of 3,156 Resources