National Endowment for the Arts Materials Anchor New National Arts Policy Archives and Library

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the UMass Arts Extension Service and the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) are creating a new National Arts Policy Archives and Library (NAPAAL) featuring materials from the National Endowment for the Arts. The launch will be celebrated at a symposium titled “Arts Policy on the Ground: The Impact of National Endowment for the Arts,” on Thursday, Sept. 26 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The goal of the NAPAAL project is to assemble key archival collections relating to the history of arts and cultural policy in America and to document and preserve the issues and critical decisions that have shaped the field of arts management, art education, arts policy, and support for the arts. Using the resources and expertise of UMass Amherst’s Department of Special Collections, the documents will be cataloged, selectively digitized, and made available to students and researchers on campus and online free of charge.

At present NAPAAL contains an extensive suite of publications and research reports from the NEA and 38 years of records from the Arts Extension Service. These materials will be joined later this fall by the archives of Americans for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Together, this collection will represent the principal institutions that provide funding, set arts policy, and support the arts in America through research, implementation, presentation and advocacy. With these partners in place, NAPAAL will offer a comprehensive scholarly resource for research into the history of the field of arts management, with the potential to help influence arts policy on the national level. The Arts Extension Service is seeking additional collections from state arts agencies, nonprofit arts policy organizations, and key individuals, and will accept new materials in perpetuity from partners.

Ultimately, NAPAAL will seek materials in all media, including paper documents, electronic records, oral histories, and audio and video recordings. Information on arts policy for all art forms, including but not limited to visual arts, design, literature, theater, dance, and music, as well as arts research and arts administration is welcome.

“Arts policy is the result of the discussions and inspiration of those wrestling with the issues of the day. Policy defines the programs, grant initiatives, outreach goals, and the trajectory of the arts, artists, education, and the reaction to these decisions. This archive is an important collective of primary source and resulting materials. Through the NAPAAL collection, students, researchers and the general public can ask important questions about how policy issues were considered and made. The partners have agreed to submit new materials every two years, keeping the collection fresh and relevant to today’s concerns,” said Dee Boyle-Clapp, director of the Arts Extension Service.

“This new archive speaks to the National Endowment for the Arts’ commitment to transparency and access to the arts,” said Patrice Walker Powell, NEA deputy chairman for programs and partnerships. “This repository promises to be an invaluable tool to understand the scope and effects of decades of arts policymaking in the United States.” 

Digitized NAPAAL holdings will be available to scholars of the arts worldwide, and represents an ongoing collection of new materials. “Part of the NAPAAL goal is to capture important collections, documents, research materials, and information before some of these items are lost to time or storage issues. Our federal arts agency, arts policy, and arts management in the United States is still relatively young – hovering just over 50 years of age – yet the documents themselves are at risk of becoming lost. We all know that paper is susceptible to mold or water damage or someone may just toss out what they think are unimportant boxes taking up valuable space. Of equal concern however, is that while the arts have undergone significant change, so have the storage devices upon which materials have been saved. Many are obsolete; capturing them now, while the SCUA can still open a floppy disk, Zip drive, cassette, or read films from innumerable formats, and digitizing and saving these materials in a form usable by all is very important,” said Boyle-Clapp.

Rob Cox, head of Special Collections and University Archives said, “The digital facilities in the Department of Special Collections are an important part of why UMass is the perfect home for the National Endowment for the Arts materials and the NAPAAL collection. We have a great, growing online repository to make digital content available to scholars and the staff, skills, and to preserve that content for the long term. Perhaps more important, though, is that NAPAAL will become a free-standing collection within our greater Social Change Archives, situating art policy and artistic production at the center of the great social forces affecting American culture.”

Collections curated by NAPAAL will be available at no cost to researchers with varied levels of expertise. Students and faculty members from the Five Colleges will have easy access to the holdings, but NAPAAL will be open free of charge to all researchers, regardless of affiliation, and the digital collections generated by NAPAAL will reach a broad international audience through the Internet. The staff of the Department of Special Collections will handle inquiries about the collections and assist researchers as needed.

The collections that comprise NAPAAL offer a uniquely valuable perspective on the role of the arts in the lives of everyday Americans. The Arts Extension Service and Special Collections staff members are committed to ensuring that these collections will not be restricted to the rare scholar but that they will be used actively by the public. To that end, the Arts Extension Service and Special Collections staff will develop a series of educational and informative products based on the collections, including educational modules for in-class use in arts management and other arts and culture courses and case studies of critical problems in arts management intended for use by students and emerging professionals. These products will be a superb opportunity to introduce a new generation to the concepts, issues, decision-making and advocacy that has taken place in the arts and policy arena.

The symposium “Arts Policy on the Ground: The Impact of National Endowment for the Arts”will take place on Sept. 26 at the UMass Amherst Campus Center. Moderators from the NEA will lead panels on Jazz and the NEA, Public Participation in the Arts, Public Art and Design, and the Arts Extension Service will host a panel on 40 years of AES’ Impact in the Arts. This event requires advanced registration. For more information, contact the Arts Extension Service at