Shirley Z. Johnson Papers

Detail of a pattern
/data/asia.v2023/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/nmaa-edan-integrations/libs/templates/utilities/edan_archive.php on line 201

Warning: Attempt to read property "content" on null in /data/asia.v2023/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/nmaa-edan-integrations/libs/templates/utilities/edan_archive.php on line 201

At A Glance

View Digital Content on SOVA
  • Overview

    The Shirley Z. Johnson Papers, dating from 1979-2015, measure 4 linear feet and include an inventory, correspondence, and research files related to Johnson's collection of Chinese textiles.
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    4 Linear feet (consisting of 8 legal document boxes)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    The papers of Shirley Z. Johnson measure 4 linear feet and date from 1979-2015. The papers largely relate to Johnson's collection of textiles. The papers include inventories, object files, correspondence, and research files.

    The inventories and object files document Johnson's textile collecting and include book lists, images, documentation, and research organized by individual object.

    The correspondence files include letters, notes, emails, news clippings, interview notes, museum object lists, press releases, and notes related to the holdings of museums, art dealers. They also contain information related to imperial robes and the individual Yan Yong, a scholar and Deputy Director of the Court History Department and the Head of the Division of Textiles at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.

    Research files comprise printed material, articles and speech drafts, and notes related to Chinese textile research. Topics represented in the records include sumptuary laws, symbolism in religious traditions in China, rank badges in various Chinese military branches, and instructions for dating textiles.

    The original container numbers established by the creator are documented with their corresponding files.
  • Biographical Note

    Shirley Z. Johnson is a scholarly collector, antitrust attorney, and autism advocate.

    Ms. Johnson's first Asian art collection consisted of imperial Chinese textiles about which she wrote an article in Arts of Asia, (1995). Some textiles have been given to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Freer|Sackler), others have been loaned to it and, as of 2019, have been promised as a gift. Her interest in Chinese textiles began in 1979 when she visited China and purchased four pieces: two from Chinese people seated on the ground among the stone animals leading to the Ming tombs and two rank badges from an antique store on Lui Li Chang street in Beijing.

    Beginning around 1992, she became interested in Japanese metal work, when she spotted a piece she liked of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) at Orientations Gallery in New York. Thereafter, she collected metal art of that era until 2006, when she began collecting work of living metal artists. She gave her collection of Meiji metal work to The Walters Art Museum in 2019 (along with Japanese cloisonné and prints) and has promised her collection of contemporary metal art to the Freer|Sackler, along with extensive archives relating to each piece and interviews with about 100 metal artists beginning in 2006.

    She served on the Board of The Textile Museum from 1989-2003 and on the Board of the Freer|Sackler from 2004-2012 and from 2017 to 2021.

    Ms. Johnson had published several articles on Asian art: "Tomobako: Functional Beauty," Impressions, 42 Part One 2021; "Japanese Metal Art: An Enduring Tradition," Arts of Asia, May-June 2017; "Chinese Ancestor Portraits in the Sackler's Collection," Arts of Asia, July-August 2003; "A Textile Collector's Approach to Collecting," Arts of Asia, July-August 1995.

    Her legal specialty was antitrust law. She worked as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Antitrust Subcommittee, and entered private practice in 1976 until she retired in 2009.

    She graduated from the University of Michigan law school in 1965 with a Juris Doctor degree and was a member of The Order of the Coif. Previously she received a bachelor's degree in Political Science, summa cum laude, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

    In 2004, she founded a unique social skills program for children with autism at the West Burlington, Iowa School District involving classroom guidance, luncheon and after-school groups and a summer camp. Each activity involved both autistic and neurotypical children. The program was called the TRI Project, standing for Intense, Inclusive, Individual.
  • Place

    Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Topic

    Textile fabrics
    Art -- China
    Art -- Collectors and collecting
    Art, Chinese
    Costume -- Chinese
  • Provenance

    Donated by Shirley Z. Johnson in 2015. Addition donated by Shirley Z. Johnson in 2019.
  • See more items in

    Shirley Z. Johnson Papers
  • Sponsor

    Funding for partial processing of the collection was supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF).
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
  • Citation

    Shirley Z. Johnson Papers. FSA.A2016.06. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Shirley Z. Johnson, 2015.
  • Arrangement

    The Shirley Z. Johnson papers are arranged in six series.

    Series 1: Inventories

    Series 2: Correspondence with Collectors

    Series 3: Correspondence with Dealers

    Series 4: Correspondence with Museums

    Series 5: Correspondence with Curators

    Series 6: Research Files
  • Processing Information

    In 2016, with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund, the Archives at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives implemented the use of minimal level processing standards to increase information about and facilitate access to more of our collections.

    Minimal processing included arrangement to the folder level, based on prior processing and preservation action, with retention of the pre-existing arrangement when possible. Otherwise, an order was imposed by the Processing Archivist. For this collection, minimal level processing was implemented, which included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. Non-archival housing was replaced for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.

    Minimal level processing and machine-readable finding aid completed by Max Howell, 2017 August and was revised by Shirley Z. Johnson in August 2019.
  • Rights

    Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
  • Genre/Form

    Correspondence -- 1950-2000
  • Restrictions

    Collection is restricted until 2140.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013