The acquisition of the Ellington Collection began with a chance encounter between Mercer Ellington and John Kinard, former Director of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum in October, 1985. Mr. Ellington was filming a public service announcement at the Anacostia Museum. During the event Mr. Ellington mentioned to Mr. Kinard that although his father's tapes had been given to a radio station in Copenhagen, Denmark, Duke's papers were still in Mercer's possession. Mr. Kinard contacted Roger Kennedy, former Director of the National Museum of American History, who asked John Hasse, Curator of American Music, to pursue the lead.
Negotiations for the Collection began and in April, 1986, John Fleckner, Chief Archivist of the Museum and Dr. Hasse surveyed the material in New York City. After extensive negotiations the Duke Ellington Collection arrived at the National Museum of American History in April, 1988. Objects and artifacts--largely 3-dimensional materials--are housed in the Museum's Division of Cultural History. (202-633-1707) Archival material--primarily music manuscripts, paper documents, photographs and audio material are housed in the Museum's Archives Center.
The material has been a rich resource for study by Ellington and jazz scholars, musicians and cultural historians. Drawing largely from the material in the Collection, an exhibit titled Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington curated by Dr. John Hasse opened in the National Museum of American History on Duke's birthday April, 28, 1993. The original exhibit plus three panel exhibits, all produced by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Services (SITES), continue to tour the United States.
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