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Willard Van Dyke archive

Identifier: AG 77

Scope and Contents

Although the collection contains some material from Van Dyke's childhood and early career, the bulk of the collection dates from the 1950s-1980s. Van Dyke's overlapping careers as a photographer, filmmaker, Director of the Film Department at the Museum of Modern Art, and as a teacher of filmmaking at various institutions are well documented.

Van Dyke was actively involved in making documentary films either as a cameraman, director, producer, or script writer for over thirty years (1935-1968). His beginnings as a cinematographer are fairly well represented in the papers but few materials from the 1940s-1960s are found. Significant items in the collection are letters to his fiancée Mary Barnett written while he was cameraman for The River (1937); film script and clippings for his directorial debut on The City (1939); and a film script, Ben Maddow's film diary, correspondence and clippings for The Bridge (1942). Van Dyke's well known film Valley Town (1940) is represented with first and final drafts of the script, clippings, and an article by Van Dyke, "Valley Town, How It Was Made" (U.S. Camera, Cinema, 1940). Other materials documenting his filmmaking career include film scripts created by other writers when Van Dyke was film producer for the Office of War Information (1943-1945) and clippings for most of his films during the 1950s-1960s. Van Dyke's autobiographical manuscript written in the 1980s contains reminiscences of his major films from the 1930s and his documentary television work in the late 1950s-1960s.

Although Willard Van Dyke was the instigator and a founding member of Group f/64, a loose organization of California photographers which existed from 1932-1935, very little primary research material about the group is found in his collection. Information about Group f/64 is dispersed throughout the papers and may be found in Correspondence Files, Biographical Materials, Activity Files, and Audiovisual Materials. Of particular note among these materials is extensive correspondence from Edward Weston (1931-1934) in which Group f/64 activities are discussed. Also included in the Willard Van Dyke Archive are the original exhibition announcement from the group's first show in 1932, photocopies of Ansel Adams correspondence discussing the group (1932-1934), and correspondence with Jean Tucker about the first major Group f/64 retrospective held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1977. Also included are a videotaped interview at Pennsylvania State University in 1970 where he discusses California photography in the 1930s and a videotaped lecture at the Center for Creative Photography in 1982. One folder contains photocopies of publications about Group f/64 (1932-1978) which were assembled by Van Dyke.

The collection is divided into nine series: Correspondence, 1925-1987; Biographical Materials, 1915-1987; Writings and Interviews, 1925-1985; Activity Files, 1932-1986; Museum of Modern Art Files, 1964-1979, 1985; Publications and Clippings, 1934-1986; Financial and Insurance Records, 1936-1987; Photographic Materials, 1929-1982; Miscellaneous Other Materials, ca. 1940-1985. In addition, there are four Appendices, A-D.

The first series, Correspondence, 1925-1987, contains letters, telegrams, postcards, and greeting cards written to and by Willard Van Dyke. The majority of the letters date from the 1960s-1980s. Other correspondents are family, friends, students, filmmakers, museums, and galleries. Incoming and outgoing correspondence is filed together. Approximately one third of the correspondence is outgoing from Willard Van Dyke. Envelopes with informational value have been retained. General Correspondence is arranged chronologically, and Selected Correspondence to and from museums, galleries, and important people in Van Dyke's life is arranged alphabetically.

Included in Selected Correspondence is correspondence with other photographers and friends such as Ansel Adams (1930s-1980s), Imogen Cunningham (1950s-1970s), Ralph Steiner (1970s-1980s), and Edward Weston (1930s-1950s. An index to Selected Correspondence is included in Appendix A. The index does not include correspondence from the Activity Files or the Museum of Modern Art Files. Correspondence with museums at universities is listed under the museum name. See also: list of correspondents in Van Dyke's Museum of Modern Art Files (AG77:19).

Family correspondence includes letters, telegrams, postcards, greeting cards, and notes written to and by Willard Van Dyke and his family. It is grouped separately and arranged chronologically.

Correspondents include:

Mary Gray Barnett (wife, 1938-1950) Carolyn (Cary) Van Dyke Begovich (sister) Nicholas (Nick) Begovich (husband of Cary) Karen Deal (niece) Sharon Deal (niece) Alice Kathyrn (Wanda) Van Dyke Deal (sister) Alice Gray (Alison or Alla) Van Dyke Shank (daughter) Richard (Dick) Shank (husband of Alison) Jason Shank (grandson) Melissa Shank (granddaughter) Barbara Millikin Van Dyke (wife, married 1950) Carol Van Dyke (wife of Neil) Murray Weston Van Dyke (son) Cornelius John (Neil) Van Dyke (son) Peter Van Dyke (son)

Additional correspondence with Willard Van Dyke may be found in Writings and Interviews (AG77:11), Activity Files (AG 77:13-18), Museum of Modern Art Files (AG 77:19), and Financial and Insurance Records (AG 77:22).

The second series, Biographical Materials, 1915-1987, includes materials relating to Van Dyke's life and death such as appointment calendars, chronologies, biographies, clippings, press releases, school records, legal documents, awards, obituaries, scrapbook materials, and reference files. Other significant materials are the household record books kept by Barbara Van Dyke which contain information about household and party expenses, menus, lists of guests and caterers. Also of note, is documentation of Amalie Rothschild's film Conversations with Willard Van Dyke and a copy of Peter Bunnell's thesis at Ohio University titled The Significance of the Photography of Clarence Hudson White (l871-1925) in the Development of Expressive Photography. Arrangement is by subject and chronological thereunder.

The third series, Writings and Interviews, 1925-1985, contains writings by Van Dyke including speeches, articles, introductions to film screenings, book reviews, monograph introductions, and the manuscript for his unpublished autobiography. Interviews are primarily published transcripts from the 1950s-1980s

Film scripts, diaries, poems, manuscripts, and theses by Van Dyke's friends, students, and colleagues are filed here. Included are film scripts from projects on which Van Dyke collaborated; film scripts written by May Sarton, Leo Hurwitz, and others during Van Dyke's career as a producer for the Office of War Information, Motion Picture Bureau; and diaries kept by Bob Churchill and Ben Maddow during film projects with Van Dyke.

The fourth series, Activity Files, 1932-1986, includes correspondence, publications, announcements, clippings, and other materials related to Van Dyke's professional and private activities. Activity files are arranged chronologically and based on how Van Dyke kept his own files. Since Van Dyke was actively involved in both film and still photography, the boundaries for his activities are often unclear and overlap with each other and with the Correspondence and Museum of Modern Art files. For example, Van Dyke often lectured or had film screenings in conjunction with the opening of his photography exhibitions. In those instances, all documentation for the lecture or screening will be found in Exhibition files since the exhibition was the primary activity. Van Dyke's "travel" folders are another example of overlapping activities. The travel folders document his travel for the Museum of Modern Art as well as his trips as vicepresident of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), to his own lectures, to film festivals and the like.

There are six subseries within the Activity Files: Committees and Organizations, ca. 1934-1935, 1967-1985, includes correspondence, memoranda, articles, brochures related to organizations in which Van Dyke participated. Included are a manifesto for the Film and Photo League of San Francisco and leaflets from the League in New York; Grants and Fellowships, 1978-1985, includes material related to grants received or sought by Van Dyke. Includes correspondence, applications, brochures, and expense reports. Additional information about grants may be found in Financial Records (AG77:23); Teaching Files, 1972-1983, contains correspondence, memoranda, equipment lists, film lists and other documents related to Van Dyke's establishment of the Film Department at the State University of New York (SUNY), Purchase and his teaching of film-making at SUNY and other institutions; Lectures, Workshops, Panels, Judging Competitions, 1954-1986 contains correspondence, brochures, expense reports, honorariums received, travel arrangements, speeches, lists of films screened, clippings, and related materials pertaining to Van Dyke's lectures to organizations and museums, his participation in film festivals, workshops, panel discussions and like activities; Exhibition files, 1932, 1966-1985 consist of correspondence, gallery notes, brochures, sales records, insurance and loan forms, press releases, clippings documenting Van Dyke's photographic exhibitions and lists of exhibitions and prints available for exhibition; Travel Files, 1966-1972, includes correspondence, memoranda, itineraries, expenses, and other materials related to Van Dyke's travels. Travel folders were maintained by Van Dyke during his tenure as director of the Film Department, Museum of Modern Art. Included are correspondence with lists of film-makers, other artists, and film libraries visited in many countries, and information concerning films previewed for possible film festivals or acquisition by the Museum of Modern Art. Information within the folders is not limited to MOMA activities but includes travel to the meetings of various organizations, lectures, film festivals, and personal vacations; Miscellaneous activities, 1946, 1971-1983, includes miscellaneous activities in which Van Dyke participated

The fifth series, Museum of Modern Art Files, 1964-1979, 1985, contains correspondence, memoranda, texts of speeches, announcements, loan and gift forms, clippings, press releases, installation views, brochures, photocopies of annual reports, and other materials relating to Van Dyke's time as Director, Department of Film, Museum of Modern Art and as guest curator for Edward Weston. Other materials relating to Van Dyke as Director, Department of Film may be found in Activity Files.

Toward the end of Van Dyke's documentary filmmaking career he was appointed Director of the Film Department at the Museum of Modern Art, where he served from 15 November 1965 - 1 January 1974. The Museum of Modern Art Files contain materials documenting his tenure as director of the Film Department and as guest director of Edward Weston a retrospective exhibition in 1975. Materials include correspondence, memoranda, press releases, brochures, clippings, and installation views. Activities documented are Van Dyke's appointment and retirement, film department projects, various film series, screenings, film exhibitions, and the Edward Weston exhibition. Related to this period are the household record books kept by Barbara Van Dyke which detail the entertaining associated with Van Dyke's position at the museum.

Correspondents include:

Akermark, Margareta 1966 Barry, Iris 1965 Bowser, Eileen 1973 Bunnell, Peter C. 1970, 1975 Dickie, Jean Kellogg 1970 d'Harnoncourt, Rene 1965 Griffith, Richard 1965 Hightower, John B. 1971 Lerner, Irving 1965 Maddow, Ben 1973-1975 Mancia, Adrienne 1966, 1972 Mayer, Arthur 1965 McCray, Porter A. 1968 Morgan, Barbara 1965 Rockefeller, David 1974 Sloan, William 1965 Szarkowski, John 1969, 1971, 1974-1975 Thomas, Lowell 1965 Vogel, Amos 1972

Series six, Publications and Clippings, 1934-1987, contains monographs, periodicals, and clippings written by Van Dyke or about his activities, arranged chronologically.

Series seven, Financial and Insurance Records, 1936-1987, consists of receipts and bills, correspondence, tax returns, check registers, canceled checks, bank statements, savings account records, ledgers, and insurance records relating to Van Dyke's income, business and household expenses, life, medical and property insurance. The bulk of the material is from the 1970s-1980s and is arranged chronologically in the following manner: Income and Expenses, 1969-1985; Miscellaneous Receipts and Bills, [n.d.], 1956, 1960, 1972-1985; Taxes 1944-1945, 1965, 1970-1973, 1979-1985; Ledgers 1959-1963, 1974, 1982; Banking records, ca. 1937, 1958, 1962-1987; Insurance records, 1936-1986. Note: Some of these materials are restricted.

Series eight, Photographic Materials, 1929-1982, contains negatives, contact prints, and study prints made by Van Dyke. Arrangement is by type and chronological thereunder. Photographic materials found in the collection include one hundred fifty, 8 x 10 inch, black and white negatives (1929-1939, 1979-1982). Most are copy negatives accompanied by printing instructions. Other materials include seven sheets of contact prints of a trip made with Edward Weston and Charis Wilson to Northern California in 1937, one modern study print of a portrait of Ansel Adams in the 1930s, and five modern study prints which have been canceled (possibly by Van Dyke). Absent from the collection are a copy of Van Dyke's 1977 portfolio, Ten Photographs, California 1930- 1937, and any color negatives or prints made after 1979. The collection does not contain Van Dyke's films or original film negatives.

Series nine, Other Materials, ca. 1940, 1960-1985, consists of Audio Visual materials, Medical Records, Oversize Materials and Miscellaneous. Research material in the collection include films, audio and video tapes; receipts and bills, insurance forms, correspondence with doctors and hospitals regarding medical services (restricted due to privacy considerations); Van Dyke exhibition and lecture posters, label from MoMA’s 1975 Edward Weston retrospective exhibition; miscellaneous materials including information about a court case (Restricted); clippings unrelated to Van Dyke and papers found with negatives.

There are four appendices: Appendix A, Correspondence Index, is an alphabetical index to selected correspondents. The index does not include correspondence from the Activity Files or the Museum of Modern Art Files. Correspondence with museums at universities is listed under the museum name. See also: list of correspondents in Van Dyke’s Museum of Modern Art Files (AG77:19).; Appendix B, lists Van Dyke Photographs in the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography as of March 1990; Appendix C, Related Resources, lists other archives collections at the Center that include materials of interest to the Willard Van Dyke researcher; Appendix D, Exhibitions, is a list of exhibitions with documentation in the Willard Van Dyke Archive.


  • 1915-1987


Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

Some of the legal and medical files are restricted. Additionally, negatives require a twoweek notice as these materials are in cold storage. Please contact the archivist for further information

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Access

The negatives in boxes 30 and 36 are currently inaccessible due to renovations in CCP's cold storage facility. Negatives will be accessible once the renovation is complete and the negative boxes have been transferred to the new frozen storage space. The estimated date of availability is mid-year of 2023, although not guaranteed. Please be sure to email with any questions or for updates.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to Willard Van Dyke’s papers and photographs is held by the Estate of Willard Van Dyke. Permissions should be sought from Barbara Van Dyke.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Willard Van Dyke born December 5, 1906 in Denver, Colorado. The family settled in Los Angeles, California in 1916. Van Dyke attended University of California, Berkeley and began to photograph seriously in 1927. During the late 1920’s he met Edward Weston, with whom he travelled and photographed on two occasions. Van Dyke, along with Weston, Ansel Adams and others founded Group f64 in 1932. Van Dyke exhibited with the group and had solo exhibitions at various galleries. He made his first film, now lost, a result of a 1934-1935 trip with WPA photographer Dorothea Lange and others. He moved to New York City in 1935 and photographed commercially for prominent publications. In 1937, Van Dyke worked on his first professional film, The River, and founded American Documentary Films, Inc. with Ralph Steiner. Van Dyke became a fulltime filmmaker/producer, giving up still photography. As a result of their film The City, Steiner and Van Dyke came to be considered the fathers of documentary filmmaking. Van Dyke continued to make documentary films in the role of cameraman, director, producer, or script writer until 1968.

In 1964, he was appointed director of the film department at the Museum of Modern Art where he worked until his retirement in 1974. While at MoMA Van Dyke developed film series, established preservation programs, a Film Study Center and film forums. He also curated MoMA’s 1975 Edward Weston retrospective exhibition. From 1972-1981 he taught film production at SUNY Purchase, NY, established a film department, and became Department Chair. He returned to still photography in 1977, worked in color for the first time, and began exhibiting at various galleries. In 1979 and 1980 he received Ford Foundation Fellowships to photograph in Ireland. He moved to Santa Fe in 1980 and continued to exhibit and give lectures around the country. In 1986 while on the road, he suffered his fourth myocardial infarction and died January 23 in Jackson, Tennessee.


20 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Papers, photographic materials, and audio-visual materials, 1915-1986, of Willard Van Dyke (1906-1986) photographer, filmmaker, curator, and teacher. Includes correspondence, memoranda, writings, biographical information, exhibition announcements, clippings, publications, financial, insurance and medical records, negatives, study and contact prints, and other materials documenting the life and career of Van Dyke.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence, 1925-1987, 5 boxes
  2. Series 2: Biographical Materials, 1915-1987, 6 boxes
  3. Series 3: Writings and Interviews, 1925-1985, 4 boxes
  4. Series 4: Activity Files, 1932-1986, 6 boxes
  5. Series 5: Museum of Modern Art Files, 1964-1979, 1985, 1 box
  6. Series 6: Publications and Clippings, 1934-1986, 2 boxes
  7. Series 7: Financial and Insurance Records, 1936-1987, 8 boxes
  8. Series 8: Photographic Materials, 1929-1982, 5 boxes
  9. Series 9: Miscellaneous Other Materials, circa 1940-1985, 4 boxes
  10. Appendices: A-D

Custodial History

This collection began as a gift in 1985 from Willard Van Dyke. Barbara M. Van Dyke donated the bulk of the materials beginning in 1986.


Additional materials received from Barbara Van Dyke in 1991.

Related Materials

AG 97, Willard Van Dyke Miscellaneous Collection

Processing Information

Collection processed by Leslie Squyres, Aug. through Oct. 1989. Additional materials received from Barbara Van Dyke in 1991. Leon Zimlich processed those materials and added them to the archive. Electronic version prepared by Amy Rule, June 1998. Reformatted electronic version prepared by Ann Richwine in 2014.

Processing Note: Dorothy Gromann was Willard Van Dyke's secretary during his time as Director of the Film Department, Museum of Modern Art (1965-1974). Her name and initials appear in the correspondence during those years. All folder titles enclosed in quotation marks (") are Van Dyke's own titles for a folder.

Willard Van Dyke archive 1915-1987, bulk 1950s-1980s
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2019
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States