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School of the Museum of Fine Arts Records

Call Number: UA133

Scope and Contents

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 2023. 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. 2021 and 2023 accessions contain various SMFA publications as well as Graduate Program administrative records, committee meeting minutes and notes, and a videotape.


  • Creation: 1875 -- 2023
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 -- 2010



This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list. This collection may require review before it is available for use. Please contact TARC for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Tufts Archival Research Center 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.

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).


692.67 Linear Feet (548 record cartons; 54 bound items; 6 card catalog boxes/12 drawers; 9 document boxes; 1 half document box; 7 oversize boxes; 5 card boxes; 1 oversize flat file; 1 artifact box; 6 index-card boxes; and 47 scrapbooks.)

1 Web sites

Language of Materials



The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston became affiliated with Tufts College in 1945, and in July 2016 officially became part of Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences. This collection contains records of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, including administrative files, exhibition files, course descriptions, and student records, from 1875 to 2023.


This collection is organized into seventeen 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; Web crawls; 2021 accessions; and 2023 accessions.

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 acquisition 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. They were reviewed, labeled, and inventoried by Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist, and packed and transported by MFA staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred by the Department of Art and History, 2011 -- 2013, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 2016 -- 2023, and the Museum of Fine Arts, 2019. The 2019 accession was previously transferred from the SMFA to the MFA archives. Student work in the 2021 accessions was donated by students in 2021.

Processing Information

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 reassigned.

The 2021 accessions were processed by Records and Accessioning Archivist, Jane Kelly, in September 2021 and February 2022. Loose material was placed in archival folders and original order was maintained.

2023 accessions were processed by Kate McNally, Records and Accessioning Archivist, and Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist, in Spring 2023. Materials were housed in archival folders and boxes, and received order was maintained. Item-level description was created at the time of processing.

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States