Skip to main content

Department of Decorative Arts Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04

Scope and Contents Note

The Department of Decorative Arts Records contain materials which document the department's activities revolving around acquisitions, object research, and exhibitions. The bulk of these materials are dated between 1983-2015 and include both internal and dealer correspondence, financial reports, special event and exhibition files, grants, dealer files, deaccession records, and travel records. Especially prevelant are the records of department curators Christina Nelson and Catherine Futter and records which detail such exhibitions as Inventing the Modern World (2012) and the Michael Cross Project Space installation for Resting Places, Living Things: Designs by Michael Cross (2008-2009). These records also contain the "cup deeds" from Clare Twomey's Forever exhibition (2010-2011).


  • Creation: 1800-2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1983-2015

Restrictions on Access

Since this collection is unprocessed, requested records must be reviewed before they can be viewed by researchers; allow a minimum of one week for review.

Conditions Governing Use Note

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

Biographical / Historical Note

The museum’s collection of decorative art objects originally fell under the watch of Ross E. Taggart, who started at the museum as registrar in 1947. In 1953, Taggart was promoted to the role of Senior Curator, the only in the museum’s history, and oversaw the Decorative Arts department as part of his duties. Early on in this new role, he curated such shows as Decorative Arts in America and Europe: 1400 to the Present and when the museum dedicated a room to display a colletion of Wedgewood pottery gifted by Frank and Harriet Burnap in 1953, Taggart eventually worked to publish a new and more complete catalog of the Burnaps' collection - a project that was started by Mr. Burnap himself, before his gifted collection at the museum grew in size to 1,300 pieces.

Taggart retired from his long-standing role as Senior Curator in December of 1983, and that same year, Joseph Kuntz, who’s “professional experience was gained in years of service in the famed auction house of Sotheby’s” joined the staff as Associate Curator in Charge of Medieval and European Decorative Arts. After Kuntz's untimely death in January of 1985, Catherine Lippert took over as interim curator that February but retired from the position in January of the following year. Te role remained vacant until Christina H. Nelson was appointed curator of Decorative Arts in February of 1989. In 1990, Scott Erbes came to the department as the assistant curator and also helped to write the book High Ideas and Aspirations. Erbes remained with the department until 1999, while Nelson held her position until she retired in 2001.

In 2002, Catherine Futter joined the department as the first Helen Jane and Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Curator of Decorative Arts. Upon her arrival, Futter worked with Ian Kennedy in the European Art Department to further integrate decorative art objects into the European galleries to enhance the context of the various periods and themes being displayed – an endeavor that had started when Lippert was initially overseeing the department. Futter also had new display cases built to house the objects that matched the “same elegant appearance” of the original 1933 cabinets and featured slanted labels that were easier for visitors to read.

In May of 2013, the department expanded its scope to become the Department of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts. In 2014, Futter was promoted to Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts. Subsequently, the departments of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts, European Painting and Sculpture, and Ancient Art were all consolidated into the Department of European Arts. In 2016, Futter was promoted to Director of Curatorial Affairs and in May of 2018, the Department of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts, once again, became stand-alone. Stefanie Kae Dlugosz-Acton was hired as Assistant Curator of the department in May of 2016, and resigned in December 2019.


42.25 Linear Feet (In 31 record center cartons, 1 clamshell box, and 2 "art boxes".)

Language of Materials



This is an unprocessed collection. A general overview of each box's contents is provided in its associated scope and contents note.

Immediate Source of Acquistion Note

Transfer; accession numbers associated with this collection are 1993-14, 2000-06, 2008-05, 2011-12, 2012-02, 2012-15, 2013-10, 2014-02, 2015-04, and 2015-05.

Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 Exhibition Records (RG 24/60), Department of European Art Records (RG 03), Senior Curator Records (RG 98), and Scott Erbes Files (RG 100).

Finding Aid of the Department of Decorative Arts Records, RG 04
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