Skip to main content

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series exhibition records

Identifier: IR-CUR-021

Scope and Contents

Duncan Phillips was impressed by Jacob Lawrence‟s combination of abstraction and socially relevant subject matter and felt it would fit in well with his ever-expanding definition of American Modernism. The Migration Series, although focused on the migration of African Americans from the South to the North, it, as Charles Moffett writes in the exhibition catalogue‟s forward, “also addressed matters of migration and immigration that are part of the experience of the nation as a whole.” This is made abundantly clear in this curatorial collection, particularly in the interviews with and essays by Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Lonnie Bunch, III and Spencer Crew, Diane Tepfer (a portion of her doctoral thesis on Edith Halpert and the Downtown Gallery may be found in Box 1, folder 12 of the Catalogue Series), Deborah Willis and others. These consultants and others were brought in for planning meetings and interviews that involved not only the exhibition catalogue and the exhibition itself, but also the children‟s book and video based on the exhibition. Please note that most of the records of the consultants who wrote essays are in the catalogue series. Additional material on these and the other consultants and some other subjects, including education and events, will be found throughout all five series, due to this crossover.

This exhibition opened at The Phillips Collection September 23, 1993 and continued through January 9, 1994, moved to the Milwaukee Art Museum January 28, 1994 through March 20, to the Portland Art Museum April 19 through June 12, to the Birmingham Museum of Art July 10 through September 4, to the Saint Louis Art Museum September 30 through November 27, 1994 and to The Museum of Modern Art, New York January 11 through April 11, 1995. The exhibition continued touring to the High Museum of Art April 25 through June 25, 1995, the Denver Art Museum July 15 through September 10, 1995, the Chicago Historical Society September 22, through November 26, 1995, and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens August 4 through September 29, 1996, and the Arkansas Art Center November 14, 1996 through January 12, 1997.

Records in this collection were created and collected by curatorial staff of The Phillips Collection.

The collection consists of the catalogue, exhibition, children‟s book, video planning and production and the research files of The Phillips Collection. These records consist of research materials assembled, as well as catalogue, exhibition, children‟s book and video planning and execution documents such as checklists, correspondence, legal and financial records, loan requests and responses, publicity, publishing, reviews, schedules and audio/visual records.


  • Majority of material found within 1991 - 1995
  • 1930 - 1997
  • Usage: The materials in this collection were used in preparation for the 1993 exhibition.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains restricted materials which have been omitted from this finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

As stated by museum director Charles Moffett in the forward to the exhibition‟s catalogue, “This exhibition commemorates an important moment in the history of American painting, in the history of The Phillips Collection and The Museum of Modern Art, and in the history of this country.” This exhibition was the first since 1971 to re-unite the entire 60-panel Migration Series.


4.6 Linear Feet (11 full legal boxes)

Language of Materials



Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series exhibition records contain materials created by the Curatorial Department of The Phillips Collection, during the course of organizing the exhibition. Included are planning records for the catalogue, exhibition, video and a children's book.


The collection is organized as five series: Series 1: Catalogue planning and production Series 2: Exhibition planning and production Series 3: Children‟s book planning and production Series 4: Video planning and production Series 5: Research

The original alphabetical arrangement of all Series was retained. Documents within all folders have been arranged chronologically. The Catalogue Planning and Production Series is comprised of 2 document boxes; the Exhibition Planning and Production Series is comprised of 5 document boxes; the Children‟s Book planning and production Series is comprised of one-half of a document box; the Video planning and production Series is comprised of one-half of a document box and one large box of audio/visual physical elements; the Research Series is comprised of 2 document boxes.

Series 1 consists of correspondence, essayists, financial, legal, publisher records and rights and permissions files. Series 2 consists of checklists, consultants, correspondence, education and events, financial and legal, funding, installation, lender, meeting, press release and publicity, research, schedule and venue files. Series 3 consists of awards, publishers, financial and legal documents, proposals and reviews. Series 4 consists of correspondence, credits, financial and legal documents, images laser disc, notebook, planning, proposal, and rights and permissions records. Series 5 consists of research including articles, bibliography, correspondence, images, reviews and copies of miscellaneous items such as a complementary invitation to the Downtown Gallery‟s American Negro Art exhibition.

Custodial History

This collection is owned by The Phillips Collection, and was accessioned from the curators‟ offices in accordance with the museum‟s records schedule.

Processing Information

After an initial survey of the collection, some duplicate materials were identified and a number of documents were identified as of no future reference value for the collection. In discussion between the librarian and the processor, approval was given to weed these documents. Boxes and folders containing restricted materials were marked with a red dot (see note above re „restrictions‟). Metal paperclips were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Post-Its were copied if necessary, otherwise removed. All documents were re-foldered in acid free folders and placed in acid-free boxes. The A/V contents of Series 4: Video Planning and Production, are housed within the Phillips Collection Library's A/V Collection. Titles are searchable in the library catalog.

NOTE: Lender files are restricted and have been omitted from this version of the Finding Aid; they may be viewed at The Phillips Collection Library with permission.

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series exhibition records, 1930-1997
The Phillips Collection Library and Archives 1600 21st Street NW Washington D.C. 20009
Valerie Vanden Bossche, Volunteer, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Phillips Collection Archives Repository

1600 21st St. NW
Washington DC 20009 United States