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Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original Exhibition Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-24-50

Scope and Contents Note

These records primarily consist of correspondence, meeting minutes, loan forms, photographs, financial records, press releases, and other miscellaneous material documenting the coordination and installation of the exhibition, and the production of the catalog and related documentary.


  • Creation: 1985-1990

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

As a nationally renowned Missouri artist, Thomas Hart Benton’s work had often been showcased at the Nelson-Atkins throughout the years – the first retrospective of his work took place at the museum in 1939 – but the centennial celebration of Benton’s birth in 1989 stirred up a renewed and robust interest to display the artist’s work in a grander form. In response, the Nelson-Atkins planned the commemorative traveling exhibition, Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original (April 16-June 18, 1989), which garnered nation-wide publicity and was featured in an episode of “CBS Sunday Morning.” The event proved to be an ambitious first for the museum as it spurred the simultaneous projects of publishing an artist biography/catalogue, producing a film about Benton’s work, and organizing a symposium on the artist at the museum in 1987.

Preparation for the exhibit took off with the arrival of the Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art, Henry Adams, while the former Curator of 20th Century Art, Ellen Goheen, returned to act as coordinator around exhibit planning and programming. Funding from local supporters, including the United Bank of Missouri (UMB) in Kansas City, the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, and the Missouri Arts Council, made the multiple-part initiative possible.

Adams, who came to the museum in 1984, curated the exhibit and wrote the accompanying exhibition biography/catalogue while also serving as a consultant during the production of the film, Thomas Hart Benton, by filmmaker Ken Burns at WGHB-TV in Boston. Adams spoke at the film’s premiere in New York in February of 1989.

After the exhibit’s initial run at the Nelson-Atkins, it traveled to the Detroit Institute of Arts (August 4-October 15, 1989), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (November 17, 1989-February 11, 1990), and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art ( April 29-July 22, 1990).


15.25 Linear Feet (In 8 record center cartons, 1 legal document box, and 1 lidded box.)

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 Acquisition Note

Transfer; Accession number associated with this collection is 2002-14.

Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are not anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Department of American Art Records (RG 03); Ellen Goheen Files (RG 95); Deparment of Marketing and Communications Records (RG 44).

Finding Aid of the Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original Exhibition Records, RG 24/50
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