Named after Roger Brown’s parents, the James Gordon and Elizabeth Palmer Brown Archive includes materials from all three of his homes: Brown’s libraries, slides and photographs, personal and professional correspondence, writings about art and life, architectural records, studies and models for large-scale projects, prints and works on paper, phonograph records, video, audio, and cassette tapes, a treasure trove of excellent ephemera, and sundry other materials. (Brown’s sketchbooks are kept at the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago where they can be viewed by appointment. They can also be viewed online.) Brown’s archival materials are augmented by a gift of documentation of Chicago Imagist artists from the Phyllis Kind Gallery.
Brown clearly knew the value of an artist’s papers and he saved a broad range of documents, both personal and professional, including multiple drafts and/or copies of many items. His habit of saving all manner of correspondences may also relate to his extensive research into his family’s genealogy, which engaged him from the early 1970s until 1997. This project must have reinforced the importance of saving and organizing documents and records, with every new discovery about his family history.
In 2005 the RBSC received a grant from the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for an archive organization project, addressing materials which were, at the time, in a rough-sort state, largely inaccessible, and in need of organization and re-housing. This project enabled us to provide access to a broad range of research materials to the SAIC community, scholars, and the public. We continue to organize and digitize materials for access.
Materials in the archive reveal dimensions of Brown’s life that can be found in the “paper trail of a life.” In the archive we discover how the fabric of an artist’s life is recorded and preserved through materials that vary from “strictly business” to deeply personal items. The archive reveals how integrally the physical evidence of Brown’s personal and professional life reflected his philosophy and was expressed in his work, often in surprising and unexpected ways.
The RBSC archive is accessible by appointment (based on staff availability). Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.