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William Rockhill Nelson Trust Office Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-80-15

Scope and Content Note

The records of the William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 1933-1989, relate to its oversight of operations of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and, to an even greater extent, the management of the real estate properties and Sni-A-Bar Farm that were originally part of William Rockhill Nelson’s estate and additional properties purchased by the trust as investments. Includes correspondence with art advisors Langdon Warner and Harold Woodbury Parsons; museum staff Director Paul Gardner, Acting Director Ethlyne Jackson, Asian Art Curator and Director Laurence Sickman, and Acting Curator Lindsay Hughes; trust lawyer John Wilson; the University Presidents; among the University Trustees themselves; property manager E.L. Fleming, contractors, and builders, and renters; W.A. Cochel, manager of Sni A Bar farms; and the Kansas City Star Company. Also found are minutes, legal and financial files, real estate records, museum reports, and records related to Sni-A-Bar Farms and the sale of the Kansas City Star.

A group of unprocessed records is comprised of taxes, invoices, canceled checks, real estate records, bank statements vouchers, daily reports, working papers, payroll records, and "general correspondence," all grouped by year. Within "general correspondence" each year, the Trust Office largely created the same subject folders. Folders/topics/correspondents generally include the Nelson Gallery, University Presidents and University Trustees and Paul Gardner, Harold Woodbury Parsons, and Laurence Sickman (during the years they were active). Not all files under this heading are strictly correspondence, however, and minutes, real estate records, invoices, taxes, insurance, payroll, and inventories may also be found here.


  • 1860-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1926-1970

Restrictions on Access

Unprocessed records in this collection must be reviewed before access - allow a minimum of one week; Minutes in Series I and Series IX may only be accessed by internal, museum-affiliated researchers.

Conditions Governing Use Note

These records are the property of the Nelson Gallery Foundation and it retains all rights, including possible copyright, which they may contain.

Historical Sketch

The will of William Rockhill Nelson provided for the establishment of the William Rockhill Nelson Trust, the income of which was to be used for the purchase of fine art. Nelson tasked the presidents of the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma with choosing the trustees, known as the University Trustees, who would manage the trust and purchase art in accordance with Nelson's will. Eventually, their remit expanded to include oversight of the museum bearing Nelson's name.

On March 3, 1926, the university presidents appointed William Volker (chair), J.C. Nichols (vice-chairman), and Herbert V. Jones (secretary)as the first trustees. William Volker retired from the board in 1929, and J.C. Nichols replaced Volker as chair. Nichols remained active as a trustees until his death in 1950. He was the primary trustee to deal with acquiring art. Hebert V. Jones died in office in 1949. Subsequent trustees whose tenures are covered in these records include the following, with their dates of service: Arthur M. Hyde (1929-1935), Robert B. Caldwell (1940-1956), Milton McGreevy (1949-1980), David T. Beals, Jr. (1950-1963), Menefee D. Blackwell (1957-1991), Cliff C. Jones, Jr. (1963-1970), Herman R. Sutherland (1970-1993), and Donald J. Hall (1980-2011).


197.3 Linear Feet (In 179 record center cartons, 12 legal document cases, 1 half document case, and 40 bound volumes.)

Language of Materials



Records primarily relate to the Trust's management of trust properties and their oversight of the operations of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art.


This collection has been organized into nine series: Correspondence (by subject), (1934-1946); Sni-A-Bar Farm Files (1926-1945); Real Estate Records (1905-1973, bulk 1933-1942); Museum Daily Reports (1933-1945); Invoices and Vouchers (1915-1945, bulk 1933-1943); Tax, Payroll and Financial Records (1905-1987, bulk 1932-1944); Legal Records (1915-1989, bulk: 1926-1954); Farm Service Company (1935-1943); Unprocessed Records (1860-1870, bulk: 1944-1970).

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note


Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

William Rockhill Nelson Trust Office Records, RG 80/15
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