School of the Museum of Fine Arts Records, 1875 -- 2020


Title: School of the Museum of Fine Arts Records
Dates: 1875 -- 2020
Bulk Dates: 1960 -- 2010
Creator: Department of Art and Art History
Call Number: UA133
Size: 651.15 Linear Feet, 512 record cartons; 54 bound items; 6 card catalog boxes/12 drawers; 8 document boxes; 6 oversize boxes; 5 card boxes; 1 oversize flat file; 1 artifact box; 1 index-card box; and 47 scrapbooks., 1 Web sites
Permanent URL:
    Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University


This collection contains records of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), including administrative records, office records, exhibition files, course descriptions, and student records, from 1875 to 2018. Student records form the bulk of the collection, with the majority dating from 1945-2015. The Exhibition and public programing materials also make up a large part of the collection and consist of slides of artwork and exhibitions as well as event calendars, art loan documentation, exhibition catalogs, and exhibition planning documents. The collection also includes audiovisual materials, clippings, photographs, publications, and scrapbooks. In addition to documenting the administration of the SMFA, topics covered by material in this collection include annual exhibitions such as the Traveling Scholars and 5th Year Exhibition, student life, and alumni activities.

Department and offices represented in the collection include Admissions; Communications; Student Affairs; the Dean's Office; Development; Exhibitions and Public Programs; the Master of Fine Arts program; the Office of the Provost; the Board of Governors; and the SMFA School Council. Admissions materials mainly consist of records created by the office such as booklets and pamphlets about admissions. Communications Office records comprise office files as well as publications produced for other departments. The Dean's Office records consist of correspondence, materials relating to the Board of Governors, meeting materials, proposals, reports, school budgets, and self-study materials for the SMFA. The Development records include Alumni Relations materials such as slides of artwork, as well as correspondence, reports, publicity material, meeting minutes, and donor information. The Master of Fine Arts program records contain admissions material, student records, and records documenting student life. The Office of the Provost records contain syllabi, faculty curricula vitae, and reports. Audiovisual materials consist of VHS, U-matic, and U-maticS tapes of lectures and exhibition pieces. Scrapbooks contain clippings, invitations, itineraries, pamphlets, photographs, postcards, tickets, and narrative descriptions of artwork, museums, and travel across Europe.


This collection is organized into fifteen series: Administrative records; Admissions records; Communications Office records; Course descriptions and requirements; Student Affairs records; Dean's Office records; Development records; Exhibitions and public programs records; Master of Fine Arts program records; Office of the Provost records; Audiovisual materials; Photographs; Publications; 2019 accessions; and Web crawls.


Biographical / Historical

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) was established in 1876 when the Trustees of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) set aside rooms for an art school in the newly opened Copley Square building. Originally called the School of Painting and Drawing, in 1901 it was fully incorporated into the museum and renamed the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, sometimes called the Boston Museum School or simply the Museum School. In 1945, the SMFA and Tufts College began their partnership with a teacher training program. Additional programs and partnerships soon followed and in July 2016, the SMFA officially became part of Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences.

In 1876 the School of Painting and Drawing was established at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the new Copley Square building. Eight students were enrolled in 1877 and by 1879 the school had a total of 160 students, the majority of them women. Also in 1879, the Art Student Association was founded by students from the school; the Association later changed its name to The Copley Society which still operates today as the oldest non-profit art association in the nation. The Museum of Fine Arts moved in 1909 to a new location on Huntington Avenue and the school moved with it. In 1927, the school moved out of its buildings on the Museum of Fine Arts lot into the building designed by Guy Lowell at 230 The Fenway.

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts offered courses in drawing, graphic arts, painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, silversmithing, and commercial art. The curriculum was traditional, with foundation courses required in the first two years of the program. In 1968, however, faculty hierarchies were eliminated, all students had access to all courses, and the review board system (student artwork is judged at the end of the term by a board of staff and students, in place of grades) was put in place. More recently, the curriculum has expanded to include photography, video arts, and performance art. The school trained many well-known artists, including Cy Twombley (1928-2011), Jim Dine (1935-), and Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015).

The relationship between Tufts College and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, or the "Museum School," began in the 1943-1944 academic year when School of the Museum of Fine Arts Professor Russell T. Smith began to teach part-time at Tufts. In 1945, Tufts College of Special Studies and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts began a partnership which allowed students at Tufts to take electives in creative arts at the Museum School, and Museum School students to take education courses to be certified to teach art. The partnership was part of a larger effort to provide opportunities to students outside of the Tufts College campuses. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts was not accredited to give out degrees and instead granted diplomas and certificates while the Bachelor of Science in Education was conferred by Tufts College. The partnership expanded over the years and students from the Museum School were granted master's as well as bachelor's degrees from Tufts University.

In July 2016, the SMFA officially became part of Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences. The SMFA now offers both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as a 5-year dual-degree program (BA/BS and BFA).

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are noted in the Detailed Contents List in each series.

Use Restrictions

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Copyright to all materials created by Tufts University employees in the course of their work is held by the Trustees of Tufts University.

Preferred Citation

School of the Museum of Fine Arts records, 1875 -- 2018. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Collection History

Processing Notes

Preliminary processing of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 accessions was completed by Leah Edelman in 2017-2018. Materials were placed in archival boxes if the original housing was damaged. Received order was maintained. A box-level inventory and series-level description were created and the finding aid was updated at the time of preliminary processing. Boxes of student records from accession UA-2018-030 were inventoried at Digiscribe New England (Norwood, MA); Leah Edelman uploaded this inventory, created a series level description, and updated the finding aid. Due to rehousing in preparation for a move of media to offsite storage, materials were consolidated and boxes 75 and 79 removed.

The September 2016 accession was processed by Archives and Research Assistant Rose Koven under the supervision of Collections Management Archivist Adrienne Pruitt in Fall 2018. Loose materials and those materials in damaged original folders were placed in archival folders. Original folder titles were maintained where applicable, and materials were kept in the groupings and order in which they were received when possible. Materials were placed into series at the box level, and boxes were consolidated when appropriate. Loose admissions catalogs, course catalogs, exhibition catalogs, and publications were placed in the appropriate series. Duplicate and out of scope publications, non-permanent administration records, software training manuals, and promotional items such as stickers and luggage tags were deaccessioned. Folders of slides of artwork from series 7: Development were temporarily separated and treated for active mold.

During the Fall 2018 processing of the collection, materials were consolidated, resulting in boxes 55, 57, 62, and 66 being removed from the collection. Box numbering is therefore discontinuous.

Processing of the 2019 accession was completed by Archives and Research Assistant Allison Maier in Fall 2019, and was continued by Archives and Research Assistant Vanessa Formato in Spring 2020. A box-level inventory as well as series-level description were created by Records and Accessioning Archivist Jane Kelly and the finding aid was updated at the time of processing. During the Fall 2019 processing of the collection, materials were consolidated, resulting in boxes 490, 503, 528, 536, and 542 being removed from the collection. Box numbering is discontinuous.


Transferred by the Department of Art and History, 2011-2013, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 2016-2018, and the Museum of Fine Arts, 2019. The 2019 accession was previously transferred from the SMFA to the MFA archives.

Custodial History

Tufts University acquired the School of the Museum of Fine Arts on July 1, 2016, after a 70-year partnership with the School on a joint dual-degree program. DCA staff were not able to survey records or discuss records with SMFA staff while negotiations for this aquisition were underway. When DCA staff arrived at the SMFA the week before the acquisition, most SMFA staff had already left the School, leaving behind a subset of records in boxes and filing cabinets. That summer DCA staff selected and packed additional records in consultation with the remaining (or new) staff from Academic Affairs, Communication and Marketing, Development, Exhibitions and Public Programs, and the Library. These records were received at DCA in September, 2016, and a second transfer from the Library was received in November, 2016. Records in Series 5 were maintained in SMFA's Student Services file room in the Mission Hill building until a July 2017 digitization project. Digiscribe New England scanned all transcripts and Review Board comments at their Norwood, MA facility, July-November 2017. On February 13, 2018 the records were transferred from the Digiscribe facility to DCA's off-site storage at Iron Mountain, under the supervision of Liz Francis, University Records Manager. Custody of the records was transferred to DCA by JoAnn Jack, Registrar, ASE later that week. Records in Series 14 were previously transferred from the SMFA to the Museum of Fine Arts Archives and were then transferred to DCA in August 2019.

Subjects and Genre Terms
  • Art--Study and teaching
  • Teaching and learning
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Greater Boston arts
  • Curriculum and Instruction -- Student Work
  • Advancement
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. School

Series Description

  1. Administrative records, circa 1900 -- 2012

    This series contains administrative files from the SMFA dating from circa 1940 to 2012. These files include annual reports; board and committee meeting minutes; long range and strategic planning materials; correspondence; clippings; and related material from the executive committee and administrative offices. This series also contains materials relating to the Museum School contract with Tufts University including correspondence dating from 1945 to 1977.

    1. 1.1. September 2016 acessions, circa 1900 -- 2012

      Scope and content note: This sub-series contains administration records, annual reports, board and committee meeting minutes, committee reports, correspondence, and planning documents.

    2. 1.2. January 2017 accession, 1877 -- 2010

      This sub-series contains annual reports, and card indices documenting committee work, correspondence, public programs, and administration and committee meetings.

    3. 1.3. November 2017 accession, circa 2009 -- 2011

      This sub-series contains program information and itineraries on SMFA's alternative spring break in New Orleans, LA, as well as information on SMFA's internship and exchange program with Xavier University and the New Orleans Women Artists Collective.

    4. 1.4. December 2017 accession, circa 1940 -- 1969

      This sub-series contains card catalog records including student course records; former student and instructor contact information; non-SMFA art organization contact information; and other miscellaneous records.

  2. Admissions records, circa 1988 -- 2015

    This series contains admissions records from the SMFA dating from circa 1988 to 2015. These records include admissions catalogs, information booklets, and other admissions advertising materials. Many of the admissions catalogs contain course descriptions, financial aid information, and academic calendars. This series contains no undergraduate student applications. Applications to the Master of Fine Arts program are in series 9: Master of Fine Arts program records.

  3. Communications Office records, circa 1970 -- 2016

    This series contains records from the Marketing and Communications office dating from circa 1969 to 2016. These records include annual art sale records, course catalogs, marketing materials, publications, and exhibit photographs and slides.

    Course catalogs include those of the Continuing Education and Summer programs. Marketing materials include studies, press kits, clippings, and media coverage reports. Printed materials and publications comprise booklets, fliers, pamphlets, and viewbooks created by the Communications office for the Admissions, Development, Exhibitions, and Student Affairs departments. This series also contains CDs and DVDs of artists' work and records for the Medal Award, an annual award presented to an individual whose work furthers the development and understanding of contemporary art.

  4. Course descriptions and requirements, circa 1969 -- 2016

    This series contains SMFA course catalogs and course descriptions dating from 1969 to 2016. Evening course, Summer School, and Continuing Education program catalogs are included in this series. The course catalogs often contain information about the academic calendar and sometimes contain admissions information. This set of course catalogs is incomplete, and there are gaps in some years.

  5. Student Affairs records, circa 1876 -- 2015

    This series contains records from the Student Affairs office. These records consist mainly of student records dating from 1876 to 2015, which may include information about years of attendance, classes, grades, scholarships, and awards, as well as remarks and notes from faculty members about students. This series also contains admissions, enrollment, and financial aid booklets; advertising material such as brochures, postcards, and posters; clippings; housing and building reports; photographic negatives; scrapbooks; and artifacts. Artifacts consist of uniforms for the Arts Cheerleaders, a performance organization founded by SMFA alumni in 2007 which raised awareness for arts education. More material related to the Arts Cheerleaders can be found in Series 7: Development records.

    1. 5.1. September 2016 accessions, circa 1990 -- 2015

      This sub-series contains booklets, advertising materials, clippings, reports, and negatives from the Student Affairs department, as well as an Arts Cheerleader uniform found in the Student Affairs office and an SMFA banner.

    2. 5.2. January 2017 accession, circa 1876 -- 2010

      This sub-series contains student records and early SMFA records.

      Student records largely date from 1876 to 1957, and contain information about years of attendance, classes, scholarships, and awards, as well as remarks and notes from faculty members about students. The first set of student records date roughly from 1876 to 1930 and are index cards housed in wooden card catalog drawers, with numbers on each card corresponding to a page number in the registration ledgers housed in the box labeled "Register of pupils." Also in the wooden card catalog drawers are an index to the scrapbooks found on microfilm, and an index to early administration and committee meetings. The second set of student records date roughly from 1930 to 1957 and contain the actual registration card, usually with a photograph attached. The chronological dividing line of 1930 isn't exact; registration methods changed during the period coinciding with the move to the building at 230 The Fenway in 1928.

      Early SMFA records include Annual Reports, course catalogs, and correspondence.

    3. 5.3. 2018 accessions, 1945 -- 2015

      This sub-series contains student records from circa 1945--2015, which may contain application materials, transcripts, and advising records including information about years of attendance, classes, scholarships, and awards, as well as remarks and notes from faculty members about students and evaluations of their work by the review board. Files often contain photographs of students, and may contain information about students who did not matriculate or graduate from the SMFA. Other formats found in files include slides and printed materials documenting student work.

  6. Dean's Office records, circa 1979 -- 2010

    This series contains records from the Dean's Office dating from the 1940s to 2016. These records include annual school budgets, commencement speeches and programs, correspondence, handbooks, memos, and reports created by the Dean's office. There are also records of art and books loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts as well as records of art sales through Christie's auction house.

  7. Development records, circa 1987 -- 2016

    This series contains records from the Development office dating from circa 1987 to 2016. These records include event publicity material and photographs; commencement files; correspondence; and reports. The Development Office also encompasses Alumni Relations. Alumni Relations material includes artists' slides, photographs, and correspondence. The Arts Cheerleaders were a performance organization founded by SMFA students in 1995 under the name SFMA Cheerleaders and revived by alumni in 2007 in Virginia under the name Arts Cheerleaders. The organization raised awareness for arts education, and their records include clippings, correspondence, drafts of cheers, performance calendars, performer audition sheets, photographs, and a scrapbook. Related Arts Cheerleaders materials can be found in Series 5: Student Affairs records.

  8. Exhibitions and public programs records, circa 1960 -- 2016

    This series contains records from the Exhibitions and Public Programs office dating from circa 1967 to 2016. These records include exhibit files; exhibit slides and photographs; exhibit publicity materials including postcards, posters, programs, and calendars; and financial and long-range planning material. There are slides and photographs documenting the yearly 5th Year exhibition, the Traveling Scholars exhibitions, Alumni exhibitions, and the Annual Sale. Exhibition files contain planning documents including financial records, correspondence, and applications to exhibit which can include slides, photographs, and CDs or DVDs of artists' work.

  9. Master of Fine Arts program records, 1979 -- 2014

    This series contains records from the Master of Fine Arts program dating from circa 1979 to 2014. These records include admissions materials; art sale files; graduate handbooks; MFA student rosters and grade sheets; Summer School program files; and teaching assistant records including rosters and training manuals. Admissions materials include interview and application files, and are closed for 75 years from date of creation.

    This series also contains graduate advising, faculty, curriculum, and colloquium files, as well as review board, critique, and student files. There are also student life records including awards, events, committees, funds and foundations, and registration files, and a small amount of slides of student work.

    1. 9.1. September 2016 accessions, circa 1979 -- 2011

      This sub-series contains admission files, photographs, publications, slides, student records, and Teaching Assistants files from the Master of Fine Arts program.

    2. 9.2. 2018 accessions, 1989 -- 2014

      This sub-series contains admissions materials, including interview and application files; graduate advising, faculty, curriculum, and colloquium files; MFA rosters; graduate handbooks and drafts; review board, critique, and student files; art sale files; and files related to student life including awards, events, committees, funds and foundations, and registration files.

  10. Office of the Provost records, circa 1980 -- 2016

    This series contains records of the Office of the Provost from 1980 to 2016. These records include syllabi; faculty curriculum vitae; strategic plans; and studies and reports, including a governance study, reports on a diversity initiative, and self-studies.

  11. Audiovisual materials, 1980 -- 2016
  12. Photographs, circa 1970 -- 2013

    This series consists of photographs, slides, and negatives of artwork, people, events, and the SMFA campus dating from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Most of the people pictured are students, faculty, and staff of the SMFA. Artworks are unlabeled and unidentified.

  13. Publications, 1979 -- 2018

    This series contains publications from 1979 to 2018, including course brochures, exhibit brochures, facebooks, newsletters, student handbooks, and an alumni directory. There are mostly complete runs of Museum School News from 1979 to 2002 and its successor artMatters from 2003 to 2009. This series also includes a few non-SMFA publications pertaining to art.

  14. 2019 accessions, 1875 -- 2016

    This series records include administrative, certification and accreditation, development, exhibition, facilities, financial, and education records including minutes; reports; correspondence; committee records; course catalogs; self-studies; clippings; photos, slides, and audiovisual materials recording exhibits and student and faculty work; building plans and architectural records; scrapbooks; and some art supplies. Materials date from 1875 to 2016.

    Administrative records from several SMFA deans date from the 1930s to 2013. The majority of materials are from Deborah Haigh Dluhy's tenure (1993 – 2010) and include reports, correspondence, meeting materials, budgets, proposals, self-study materials for the SMFA, and materials relating to the Board of Governors. Capital campaign records relate mostly to fundraising in the 1980s and 1990s. This includes reports, meeting minutes, directories of and notes concerning potential donors, and donor research material. It also includes materials relating to events, such as guest lists, invoices, program schedules, and invitations. Course programs and catalogs date from 1900 – 2015. Alongside this material are advertisements about exhibitions and publications from the school, including an independent paper, "the Underground" and a publication by Graham Harwood titled "if comix Mental."

    Records of the SMFA Self-Study for National Association of Schools of Art and Design consist of administrative documents such as internal reports, reports from other art schools, correspondence, mission statements, operating procedures, and newspaper clippings about the school dating from 2004 – 2010.

    Records of the SMFA's Massachusetts Department of Higher Education degree granting application and approval includes materials regarding the Program Application for New Degrees, which the SMFA submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education circa 2012. This application was part of the accreditation process the SMFA underwent in order to be able to offer the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art, Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art, and Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art.

    The bulk of the scrapbooks dating from 1878 to 1990 contain clippings, postcards, pamphlets, invitations, and photographs related to SMFA students and faculty and their artwork and exhibitions. Grand Tour scrapbooks dating from 1904 to 1913 and the Mary Hallowell Loud scrapbook dating from 1905 contain captioned postcards and photographs, tickets, itineraries, and narrative descriptions of artwork, museums, and travel across Europe. The personal scrapbook dating from 1910 to 1923 contains captioned photographs of family, friends, and classmates at the SMFA during this period.

  15. Web crawls, 2017 -- 2020

    This series contains the web crawl for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts' website. The website is crawled on a montly basis.