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Department of Prints and Drawings Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-06

Scope and Contents Note

The Department of Prints and Drawings Records contain materials which heavily document the department's exhibitions, including Repeated Exposure: Photographic Imagery and the Print Media (1982) and Art By Chance: Fortuitous Impressions (1989), as well as materials related to department curator George McKenna's association with the Print Society organization. Also included are materials related to art dealers, gifts, loans, catalogues, and departmental accessions and deaccesions.


  • Creation: 1981-2016

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

In July of 1960, George McKenna, who had been the museum’s acting registrar since 1953, was appointed Assistant Curator of Prints. In his new role, McKenna surveyed the collection to facilitate better management and display and advocated for more space and resources to exhibit the works more regularly. In 1973, he became Associate Curator of Prints and was promoted to Curator of Prints in 1982. Upon accepting this new role, McKenna resigned from his duties as the museum’s registrar and was able to completely focus his efforts on the department as its new full-time curator. He worked to add to the collection and initiated a renewal of interest in the photography collections by organizing multiple exhibitions to support them. That same year, he launched the large-scale exhibition, Repeated Exposure: Photographic Imagery and the Print Media, which showcased prints that had been inspired by photographs.

During McKenna’s 36 years overseeing the department, it held over 237 exhibitions, many of which McKenna organized and which brought the department national attention. Some of these exhibitions included Ninety Prints by Henri Matisse: The Legend of Pasiphae (1983), Expressionism in the Graphic Arts (1986), Art by Chance: Fortuitous Impressions (1989), and Thirty Years of Print Purchases for the Permanent Collection (1989), the latter of which amassed a selection of prize acquisitions from the 156 impressions McKenna acquired for the museum between 1960 and 1989. In 1996, McKenna published a complete and fully-colored catalog of the museum’s print collections. He retired that same year but continued to work as a part-time consultant with the department.

McKenna, who died in 2007, was the first and only curator of prints in the museum's history.


37.7 Linear Feet (In 30 record center cartons and 1 half document box (letter).)

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 number associated with this collection is 2016-001.

Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Department of European Art Records (RG 03); Department of Photography Records (RG 13); Senior Curator Records (RG 98). Additional files related to the Print Society are found in the Friends of Art Records (RG 43/02).

Finding Aid of the Department of Prints and Drawings Records, RG 06
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