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Archives Collection Highlights

Our over 120 collections house a growing number of personal papers, written documents, still and moving pictures, graphics, audio tapes, and other forms of documentation.

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detail from photo from Views of India collection, circa 1860s-1880s.

Detail, albumen print from the Views of India collection, circa 1860s-1880s. More information »

Manuscripts and Papers

Supplementing the Charles Lang Freer Papers, the Archives holds personal and professional papers of influential art historians, archaeologists, dealers, collectors and artists. These documents form an important resource for the study of Asian, Middle Eastern, and late-19th century American art.

Charles Lang Freer Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Charles Lang Freer papers
The personal papers of Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), an industrialist and art collector who founded the Freer Gallery of Art, form the nucleus of the Galleries' Archives. They document the pioneering efforts that built one of the great American collections of Asian art, and the largest collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) now in a public museum. Papers include his correspondence with public figures, dealers and collectors such as Bunkio Matsuki, Ernest Fenollosa, and Dikran Kelekian, and artists such as James McNeill Whistler, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and Dwight William Tryon; vouchers documenting his purchases; inventories of his art collection; scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings; travel notes; and diaries. Various Whistleriana, along with Freer's correspondence with the artist, provide scholars with one of the largest sources of primary documentation about the artist, second only to the holdings of the University of Glasgow's Centre for Whistler Studies. Photographs in the papers document Freer's life, friends and associates, and his travels between 1895 and 1911, primarily to China, Egypt, Italy, and Japan. There are also photographs that Freer acquired during his travels, including a noteworthy group of images of Sri Lanka. Together, these papers form a major resource for ongoing studies of Asian art patronage in late 19th and early 20th century United States.

Dwight William Tryon Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Dwight William Tryon Papers
The papers of American landscape painter Dwight William Tryon (1849-1925), whose foremost patron was Charles Lang Freer, include correspondence; sketchbook; newspaper clippings; and portrait photographs of Tryon, his family, and their residences.

Carl Whiting Bishop Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
An associate curator and associate in archaeology at the Freer Gallery of Art from 1922 to 1942, the professional papers of Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) document his Gallery-sponsored travels to China from 1923 to 1934 and include an unpublished two-volume manuscript describing his archaeological research in China; line drawings; rubbings; maps; note cards; and nearly 4,000 glass and film negatives with corresponding original silver prints. These document his expeditions in northern and central China, illustrating archaeological sites in the Henan, Shanxi, and Hebei provinces. Specific digs include the large neolithic site at Wanquan, Shanxi, and sixth century C.E. tombs near Fenyin. Additional images show Chinese cityscapes, daily life and customs, topography, temples, pagodas, caves, and sculpture.

John Alexander Pope Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
John Alexander Pope (1906-1982) was associated with the Freer Gallery for almost forty years, serving as director from 1962-1971. His papers include biographical data; photographs; and research files related to his publications on Chinese porcelains.

Ernst Herzfeld Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Ernst Herzfeld Papers
Archaeologist and art historian Ernst Emil Herzfeld (1879-1948) was one of the most widely learned and influential figures in the history of West Asian studies. His professional papers mostly relate to his expeditions to the Near East (chiefly Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria) conducted between 1903 and 1947, in particular his excavations at Samarra, Pasargadae, Persepolis, and in Sistan. The Papers include correspondence; field notebooks; drawings; sketchbooks; inventories of objects; "squeeze" copies of architectural details; and photographs, approximately 12,000 original images documenting Islamic and pre-Islamic archaeological sites, prehistoric artifacts, monuments, and architecture. Also shown are images of Herzfeld, his sister and colleagues, and twentieth-century life in those regions, including peoples, landscapes, and street scenes.

Myron Bement Smith Collection

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Classical archaeologist, architect, and art historian Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970) had a life-long devotion to West Asia, accumulating some 87,000 items now in the Archives documenting Islamic art and culture from Spain to India, with an emphasis on architecture. Established in 1948 to further an appreciation for Persian art and culture, nearly seventy-five percent of Smith's "Islamic Archives" consists of his own work; the remainder obtained from other sources. Smith's own negatives, taken from 1933 to 1947, accompany images in a six-volume logbook portraying Persian architecture and monuments, in particular the vaulting of the Masjid-i D'Juma at Isfahan, Iran. One of the most significant portions of the "Islamic Archives" is the photographic material of Antoin Sevruguin, a commercial photographer in Tehran active during the 1870s to 1930. His nearly 800 photographs depict the shahs, royal palaces, military ceremonies, and daily aspects of Persian life. Other materials in the collection include Smith's personal and professional papers including correspondence, research files, writings, and documentation regarding his 1927-1928 Italian and 1933-1937 Iranian expeditions. See also Antoin Sevruguin photographs below.

Henri Vever Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Henri Vever Papers
Click here to access the finding aid for the Henri Vever papers. The papers of Parisian jeweler and art collector Henri Vever (1854-1942) give evidence about patrons and art collectors in turn-of-the century Paris, and provide research support for the Vever Collection of Islamic paintings, calligraphy, and bookbindings in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Included are six diaries; a ledger of art acquisitions; and photographs. They complement the Vever Family Photograph Album that portrays the Vever family from 1881-1930, and the family estate in Noyers, France.

Benjamin March Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Benjamin March Papers
Click here to access the finding aid for the Benjamin March papers. The development of early coursework in the teaching of Asian art history in the United States is a highlight of the papers of writer, curator, and professor Benjamin Franklin March Jr. (1899-1934), one of the foremost authorities on Chinese art during the 1920s and 1930s. His papers, dating from 1923 to 1934, document his professional and personal life in the United States and China and include lecture notes and outlines; research notes; diaries; scrapbooks; and photographs.

John Calvin Ferguson Family Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
The papers of John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945), an advisor to the Executive Yuan of the National Government of China, document his life and collecting that began during the turbulent period of the Boxer Rebellion in turn-of-the century China. The papers, portions in Chinese, include personal and professional correspondence; Ferguson's lectures and writings; documents regarding Ferguson's art collecting; a travel diary belonging to his wife Mary Esther; and photographs. The Archives also holds one full-length profile portrait drawing of John Calvin Ferguson by Li Yuling, showing Ferguson in the robes of a Zhou dynasty scholar.

Paul Singer Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
The papers of medical doctor, neuro-psychiatrist, and art collector Dr. Paul Singer (1904-1997) provide research support for the Paul Singer Collection, the largest single group of Chinese works of art acquired by the Gallery since it opened to the public in 1987. The Papers include biographical data; correspondence; legal and financial material; writings, including his unpublished memoir and drafted catalog of the Singer collection; publications; and photographs depicting Singer, his family and friends, early days in Vienna, and his collection of Chinese art objects.

Xie Zhiliu Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Documents in the papers of Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997) record the extraordinary life of one of China's most esteemed painters and connoisseurs of the twentieth-century. The Papers, in Chinese, include biographical data; honorary awards; letters; personal journals; writings by Xie, mostly related to his research and publications on artists and on the authentication and identification of Chinese painting and calligraphy in various collections; Lao Jixiong's manuscript of Dunhuang shiku; poems; printed material; seal impressions; and photographs that show Xie, his wife Chen Peiqiu, their family, fellow artists and colleagues, Xie's paintings, works by other artists, historical manuscripts, and cave sites. These substantial papers provide research support for the paintings, calligraphy, and personal seals of Xie Zhiliu in the Freer Gallery of Art.

Wang Fangyu Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
The Papers, 1942-1997, chiefly in Chinese, of collector, art historian, and professor Wang Fangyu (1913-1997), mostly regard his extensive research on the Chinese artist Zhu Da (1626-1705), commonly known as Bada Shanren. Included are letters; notes and writings; publications; photographs of Wang, his friends, and works by Bada Shanren, including fakes attributed to the artist. These Papers form the single most important resource for the study of Zhu Da's works in the West, and complement his paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art.

Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Finding aid for the Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers
Click here to access the finding aid for the Yatsuhashi Harumichi papers. The American immigrant experience is illustrated in the papers of art dealer and merchant Yatsuhashi Harumichi (1886-ca. 1981), who began his employ in 1907 with the Boston branch of the East Asian antiquities company of Yamanaka & Co. The Papers, mostly in Japanese, include biographical data; correspondence; a diary; printed material; and portrait photographs of the Yatsuhashi family, Yamanaka Sadajir and his son; firm employees and their families, the shop interior, and art objects.

"Three Roads to Urga" Typescript

Full catalog record on SIRIS
A detailed account, illustrated with 79 silver prints, written after 1918 by an unknown author, probably an American trader of ponies, recalling his years of travel to and in Outer Mongolia along the three caravan routes that led to Urga (now Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia). There are descriptions of the travel conditions, modes of transportation, trade practices, the Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese people of this region, daily living, housing, customs and festivals, and animals indigenous to the area.

Kenneth X. Robbins Collection

Collections and Papers on SIRIS
Photographic Collection on SIRIS
Psychologist Kenneth X. Robbins assembled this collection to document princely India, with printed material; philately; and photographs, including a portrait of Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Bharatpur and his court in Durbar, and an album commemorating the silver jubilee of rule by the last Nawab of Gujarat in 1945.

Documentary Art and Photography

The Archives provides the researcher with a rich variety of visual documentation. Over 125,000 photographic materials are housed in the Archives, dating from early salt prints of the 1850s to modern ilfochromes of the 1990s, and in formats from collodion photonegatives on glass to color lantern and film transparencies, albums, and panoramas—all widely diverse in subject matter and usage. The development of photography paralleled the growng presence of Westerners in Asia; photographic collections documenting Japan, India, and Sri Lanka in the Archives are a pictorial record of the West's conception of these countries. The often picturesque images of commercial studios are complemented by the documentary photographic output of explorers and scholars working in the Middle East and China during the pre-World War II era. Many of these photographs were received as part of manuscript collections, where they remain in context with accompanying documents.

Thomas Daniell Volume and Drawing

Full catalog record on SIRIS
An atlas folio containing twenty-four aquatints with descriptive letterpress, produced by Thomas Daniell (1749-1807) in 1803, entitled Oriental Scenery, v. [5], Hindo Excavations in the Mountain of Ellora near Aurungabad in the Decan; and an undated sketch attributed to Thomas Daniell, showing a waterfront scene.

French India Company School Drawings

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Watercolors captioned in French, created about 1840 to portray Tamil men and women in various trades and activities. These ethnographic studies may have been rendered by a local Indian artist of the Pondicherry area of South India on commission for a French official or merchant, and are similar to those of the East India Company during the early eighteenth-century.

Cixi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835-1908, Photographs

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Forty-four extremely rare photonegatives of the last empress dowager of China, Cixi (1835-1908), of the Qing dynasty, photographed from 1903 to 1905 by Xunling (1874-1943), the son of Lady Yugeng, senior lady-in-waiting to the empress. Cixi is depicted in both the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Scenes include the empress dowager on the imperial barge on Kunming Lake, in formal attire with the imperial throne, and with members of the royal court such as Princess Der Ling, Lady Rongling, Lady Yugeng, and Li Lianying, the chief eunuch.

Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection

Full catalog on SIRIS
An extraordinary collection assembled by Dr. Henry D. Rosin and Nancy Rosin, to document nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century photography of Japan, including prints by photographers Felice Beato (ca. 1830-ca. 1906), Baron Raimond von Stillfried (1838-1911), Kusakabe Kinbei (active 1882), Ueno Hikoma (active 1860s-1890s), Ogawa Kazumasa (1860-1929), and others, to depict architecture, landscapes, formal studio portraits, members of the royal family, samurai, and people in daily activities.

Julia Margaret Cameron Photograph

Full catalog record on SIRIS
An albumen print on cabinet card mount, ca. 1865-1870, by Julia Margaret Pattle Cameron (1815-1879), showing a half-length portrait of Christina Spartali (later the Countess Edmond de Cahen). Christina Spartali was the model for Whistler's painting, "La Princess du Pays de la Porcelain," for which she posed in 1864-5.

Felice Beato Album Photographs of Delhi

Full catalog record on SIRIS:
A volume entitled Photographs of Delhi, containing thirty-five albumen prints by Felice Beato (ca. 1830-ca. 1906), mounted into album format with captions to depict views of the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny near Delhi, India, ca. 1858.

Impey Family Photograph Albums

Full catalog record on SIRIS
Personal albums of Captain Eugene Clutterbuck Impey (1830-1904), one of a number of British soldiers to take up photography in India during the 1850s-1860s. E. C. Impey, whose grandfather Sir Elijah Impey and his wife Mary were important patrons of Indian painting, was also related to photographers Sir John Herschel and Julia Margaret Cameron. Comprised of two volumes, the albums contain about 300 images, mostly albumen prints with a few salt prints. Depicted are Impey, his family, British colonials, and ethnographic and architectural images.

The People of India

Full catalog on SIRIS
Produced in eight volumes between 1868 and 1875, The People of India is a series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan, containing 468 albumen prints by some of the best-known photographers of nineteenth-century India. Although work by commercial firms such as Shepherd & Robertson was included, the majority of the contributors were amateurs such as Willoughby Wallace Hooper (1837-1912), Henry Charles Baskerville Tanner (1835-1898) and James Waterhouse (1842-1922). Prepared by the authority of the government of India, the volumes were edited by Watson and J.K. Kaye, and issued in 200 sets. These had the distinction of being one of the first major ethnographic studies produced by the camera.

The Lucknow Album

Full catalog record on SIRIS
A pictorial guide that illustrated the city of Lucknow, India, published in 1874 by the Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, created in part as a memorial to the Garrison of Lucknow and survivors of the rebellion of 1857-58. The volume contains 50 tipped-in albumen prints, accompanied by full textual descriptions of each scene depicted, along with a large-sized plan of the city executed by Parogha Ubbas Alli, Assistant Municipal Engineer, who may have been the photographer.

Antoin Sevruguin Photographs

Antoin Sevruguin Resource
Antoin Sevruguin (1830s-1933) was an official photographer of the Imperial Court of Iran, whose commercial photography studio was one of the most successful in Tehran during the 1880s to 1930s. These eighteen albumen prints include royal portraits of Nasir al-Din Shah and Muzaffar al-Din Shah, and depictions of Iranian society, public events, and a mosque. These images, along with other important Sevruguin photographs in the Myron Bement Smith Collection, provide a rich visual documentation of the later years of the Qajar dynasty (1848-1922) and the beginning of the Phalavi dynasty (1925-1941) of Iran.

Still Prints

Full catalog records on SIRIS:
Still prints of South Asia, circa 1870-1904
The Delhi Durbar circa 1903
Views of India Collection, circa 1860s-1880s
Among the still prints in the Archives there are significant nineteenth-century photographs of Sri Lanka that include images taken by Scowen & Co. of Kandyan chiefs and their families, and numerous ethnographic and place views of India by Samuel Bourne, John Burke, John Murray, Linnaeus Tripe, Francis Frith, Johnston & Hoffman, and Shepherd & Robertson. There are also two studio portraits taken in Istanbul by Abdullah Bros. between 1860-1870, and a few prints taken in China by unknown photographers, including an 1870 view of Peking from the observatory with 17th century astronomical instruments, and a formal portrait showing the Qing dynasty official Duanfang (1861-1911), posed with fellow officials.


Panorama of Elphinstone Circle, Bombay, ca. 1870s
Felix Bonfils panoramic view of Damascus, Syria, ca. 1870
View of Lake Ashi and mountains at Hakone, Japan, circa 1860s
Felix Bonfils panoramic view of Constantinople, ca. 1870
The Archives houses two panoramas by Felix Bonfils (1831-1885) taken about 1870, one a ten-sheet, 360 degree panorama of Istanbul, Turkey, and the other a five-sheet panorama of Damascus, Syria. Other panoramas include a carbon print in three contiguous sheets of Tsangpo Valley, Tibet, taken about 1904 by John Claude White; and a panorama of Elphinstone Circle, Bombay, India, ca. 1870s, by an anonymous photographer, comprised of four albumen prints mounted contiguously.

Using the Collections

Collection Highlights
Doing Research

Online Resources

Finding Aids
A number of online finding aids, which are detailed descriptions of contents of selected collections.

Collection Descriptions
An entire listing of our collections, with appropriate images and finding aids.

Image Gallery
An online gallery space that allows you to browse a sampling of visual records.

Sevruguin Resource Page
Sevruguin was one of the most successful commerical photographers in Iran.

Herzfeld: Significant Archaeological Sites
Locations of significant archaeological sites and objects found in the Herzfeld papers.

Ernst Herzfeld Image Gallery
An online gallery space that consists of all cataloged material from the Ernst Herzfeld papers.

Samarra Resource Page
Online resources for researching the recently cataloged Samarra excavation from the Ernst Herzfeld papers.

Squeeze Imaging Project
The Archives hold a significant collection of 393 squeezes from ancient archaeological sites in the Near East.

SIRIS - the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) is a public database with archival and library holdings.

Posts featuring collections across the Smithsonian's Archives, Libraries, and Special Collections.

FSG Archives on YouTube


The Archives is open by appointment only Monday through Thursday 10:00–5:00. Please contact us at 202.633.0533 or via our query form.

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The Archives cannot answer queries about the Freer and Sackler Galleries' art collections. These inquiries should be directed to publicAffairsAsia@si.edu

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