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Office of the Director Records, Ralph T. "Ted" Coe Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-01-03

Scope and Contents Note

The Office of the Director Records, dated 1977 to 1983, consists of correspondence, contracts, exhibition checklists, loan forms, reports, meeting minutes, and other miscellaneous materials. The records were generated during Ralph Coe’s five-year tenure as director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


  • Creation: 1977-1983


Restrictions on Access

Access to Series II, Board of Trustees Records, is restricted to the current Director, Chief Operating Officer, and their Executive Assistants; Selected items related to an anonymous donor (which were removed from Box 4, Folder 1 and Box 5, Folder 10) may only be accessed by approved staff. Otherwise, this collection is open to researchers. Appointments are necessary for the use of manuscript and archival collections.

Conditions Governing Use Note

Notification of intent to publish, quote, or cite archival materials is required. Contact the archives via

Biographical/Historical Note

Ralph T. Coe came to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 1959 as curator of painting and sculpture. He was appointed assistant director in 1965 and became director on February 1, 1977.

Highlights of his administration include:

• The exhibition Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Indian Art, which Coe organized before he became director was shown here in the spring of 1977. It boosted the Museum’s attendance to the second highest level in its history. The other large exhibition that took place during Coe’s time in office was Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting, a collaboration between the Nelson-Atkins and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

• Important acquisitions were made with a large monetary gift from the mysterious Anonymous Donor, which enabled the purchase of a number of European paintings. Also at this time, R. Crosby Kemper, Jr. began the purchase of American paintings which he gifted to the Museum.

• Several construction projects were completed, most notably the Kenneth and Helen Spencer Art Reference Library. The library stacks area was built under the southwest terrace and an office, reference area, and reading room were built on the ground floor above. Other projects included the remodeling of Atkins Auditorium and the covering of Rozzelle Court to serve as both a restaurant and additional exhibition space.

• In 1980, spurred on by a gift of $1 million from the Kansas City Star on the occasion of its centennial, the Nelson’s trustees began to prepare for the Museum’s 50th anniversary. Included in this undertaking was the creation of a long-range plan to anticipate and meet the Museum’s coming needs. A study was undertaken by the Committee on the Future, whose report established the agenda of the Museum’s goals for the 1980s. This report formed the basis for an appeal to the community for financial support and ushered in the new role of fundraising as central in the life of the institution.

Coe asked for a leave of absence in March 1982 to pursue his curatorial interests; however, he decided to instead resign from his position as director in June 1982. He subsequently moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he resided until his death in 2010.


8.65 Linear Feet (In 8 record center cartons and 1 legal document case.)

Language of Materials



The records of Ralph T. Coe maintained during his tenure as Director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from 1977 to 1982. The collection consists primarily of letters, memos, meeting minutes, reports, and other miscellaneous material.


The collection has been organized into four series: Correspondence (Series I); Board of Trustees (Series II); Exhibitions (Series III); and Subjects (Series IV).

Immediate Source of Acquistion Note


Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Office of the Assistant Director Records (RG 99); some subject files dating from Ted Coe’s directorship may also be found in the director’s records of his successor, Marc Wilson (RG 01/04).

Finding Aid of the Office of Director Records, Ralph T. "Ted" Coe Records, RG 01/03
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Archives Repository

4525 Oak St.
Kansas City MO 64111 United States