Scope and arrangement
The Guy C. McElroy Papers date from 1969 to 1990. The papers provide information on his college education as he worked toward his goal of becoming an art historian, in addition to documenting the various positions he held in the museum and art history fields, particularly as Guest Curator for the exhibition "Facing History: The Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940". Aspects of his personal life are represented in the papers as well.
The Guy C. McElroy papers are arranged in four series:
This series consists of biographical newsclippings about McElroy, personal correspondence with family and friends, resumes and applications for admittance to graduate school and associated correspondence, job applications for museums and art galleries, and information and notes pertaining to his disability. A rolodex containing names and addresses of professional colleagues and associates is also included in this series. Researchers may be interested to note that a videocassette which depicts McElroy coping with his disability at home has been transferred to the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division.
The series contains primarily class notes, papers written by McElroy, and reference articles and research notes pertaining to his graduate work in art history at the University of Cincinnati, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Maryland.
This series contains the largest body of material in the collection and reflects McElroy's career as an art historian, illustrating his development from a general arts administrator and assistant curator to his flowering as Guest Curator of The Corcoran Art Gallery's major exhibition on African-American Art.
The "Facing History: The Black Image in American Art, 1710-1940" Exhibit, 1986-1990 (7.8 lin. ft.) subseries provides the greatest amount of research material on African-American art, the social and political milieu that produced it and its pioneering interpretation as expressed by McElroy in this collection. The exhibition entitled "Facing History: The Black Image in America, 1710-1940" which was organized by The Corcoran Gallery and was shown there from January 13 through March 25, 1990, and travelled to The Brooklyn Museum from April 20 through June 25, 1990. McElroy authored an outstanding, fully illustrated catalog bearing the same name as the exhibition, with an essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and contributions by Janet Levine, Francis Martin, Jr., and Claudia Vess; edited by Christopher C. French and published in 1990.
This exhibition documents... "the variety of ways artists created a visual record of African-Americans that reinforced a number of largely restrictive stereotypes of black identity. Prosperous collectors created a demand for depictions that fulfilled their own ideas of blacks as grotesque buffoons, servile menials, comic entertainers, or threatening subhumans...." Both European Americans and several African-American artists were represented in this exhibition from the disciplines of painting, drawing and sculpture. Some of the African-American artists included in the exhibition and for which there is research material in the collection are: Edward Mitchell Bannister, Robert Scott Duncanson, Joshua Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Mary Edmonia Lewis, and Henry O. Tanner; represented European American artists are: John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Francis Guy, Winslow Homer, William Sidney Mount and John Singer Sargent. This subseries includes such formal material as proposals for the exhibition, bibliographies, list of works of art, press kit for The Corcoran Gallery, reviews of the exhibition, and congratulatory letters.
These are followed by several drafts of the catalog [including several versions on six computer diskettes (Word Perfect)] as well as reference notes and research files consisting principally of photocopies of published articles. These latter follow the order maintained by McElroy and are organized by such categories as: 18th century painting; 19th century painting; graphics, sculpture, drawings and sculpture; and 20th century painting, sculpture, prints, watercolor and decorative arts. The files are organized by name of artist within century and genre. There are also photocopies of pertinent issues of Leslie's Illustrated and Harper's Weekly as well as some additional bibliographic information on both African-American and European American artists. Please note that The Corcoran Gallery has retained McElroy's correspondence and copies of the manuscript for the catalog as the Curatorial Department felt it was more appropriate that these papers remain as part of its working files.
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), 1988 (1 folder) includes correspondence between McElroy and the Smithsonian Institution regarding the exhibit he created "Black Artists from the Evans-Tibbs Collection", exhibit labels, and the manuscript bearing the same name as the exhibit. The American Association of Museums, 1989-1990 (1 folder) consists of information regarding a manual on conducting visitor surveys, in addition to personnel issues concerning McElroy's employment. The District of Columbia Commission on Arts and Humanities, 1990 (1 folder) includes a small amount of material related to McElroy's role as a panelist for the Commission and some printed matter.
The last series of this collection, is comprised of research material that cannot be identified as being associated with a particular exhibit or university with which McElroy was affiliated. This series contains photocopies of articles about African-American art and artists, papers and research notes written by McElroy, and exhibition catalogs and other printed matter.