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Sacred Circles Exhibition Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-24-05

Scope and Contents Note

The Sacred Circles Exhibition records, dated 1972 to 1980, consist of correspondence, loan forms, photographs, financial records, publicity reports, press releases, and other related material. The collection primarily documents the organization and showing of the Kansas City venue of the exhibition, as well as other activities associated with its showing.


  • Creation: 1972-1980

Restrictions on Access

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

Following the suggestion of a friend, in 1972, Ralph T. Coe mentioned to a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain that the British people might be interested in an exhibition of Native American art. The following year, the Arts Council decided to mount such an exhibition within the framework of the upcoming American Bicentennial. The Arts Council asked Coe to act as curator of the exhibition; therefore, from 1973 to 1976, in addition to his duties as Assistant Director of the Nelson-Atkins, he traveled throughout North America and Europe locating Native American works of art and securing loan agreements with selected lenders.

In the fall of 1976, the exhibition entitled Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art was shown at London’s Hayward Gallery. This was originally intended to be the exhibition’s only venue, but Coe thought that such a display of Native American art should be seen in its home continent and wanted a North American showing to be held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Yet, such an endeavor would prove to be difficult because of the fragility of the objects, the complexities of working with over ninety lenders in six countries, and the logistics of transporting the show from London to Kansas City and back again. Many of these obstacles were handled, however, with the assistance of the Arts Council, Hayward Gallery, and the cooperation of most of the lenders. The only thing then standing in the way of a Kansas City showing was the necessary funds to undertake such an exhibit. The financial constraint was overcome by large federal and state grants, a sizable contribution from the American Can Company, chief amongst the many corporate donors, and through the efforts of local businessmen Morton Sosland and W. Coleman Branton who helped raise over $650,000 from local businesses and individuals. Thus, Sacred Circles was exhibited in Kansas City from April 16 to June 19, 1977, its first and only North American showing.


3 Linear Feet (In 3 record center cartons.)

Language of Materials



This collection contains the records of the Sacred Circles exhibition, held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 1977. The collection, dated 1972 to 1980, primarily consists of correspondence, loan forms, photographs, financial records, publicity reports, press releases, and other related material.


The collection is organized into seven series: Correspondence (Series I); Lenders (Series II); Catalog (Series III); Funding (Series IV); Programs (Series V); Publicity (Series VI); and Miscellaneous (Series VII). Series II is arranged alphabetically, and the remainder of the series, or subjects within each series, are arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Transfer; Accession number associated with this collection is 1992-15.

Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

Finding Aid of the Sacred Circles Exhibition Records, RG 24/05
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