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Records of facilities at 401 Wilshire, 1980-1994, undated

To access physical materials at the Getty, go to the library catalog record for this collection and click "Request an Item." Click here for general library access policy. See the Administrative Information section of this finding aid for access restrictions specific to the records described below. Please note, some of the records may be stored off site; advanced notice is required for access to these materials.
Guide to the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities Records of Facilities at 401 Wilshire, 1980-1994, and undated

Administrative History

The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities (GCHAH) was established in 1983 to advance and disseminate research in the history of art and the humanities. The GCHAH was one of the original programs established by the J. Paul Getty Trust, an international cultural and philanthropic organization serving both general audiences and specialized professionals. The Trust is a not-for-profit institution, educational in purpose and character, that focuses on the visual arts in all of their dimensions. As of 2009 the Trust supports and oversees four programs: the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Getty Foundation; the Getty Conservation Institute; and the Getty Research Institute, which, among other things, continues the work begun by the GCHAH.

The GCHAH opened after two years of thoughtful planning on the part of the Trust. In 1981, soon after his appointment as the first president and CEO of the Trust, Harold Williams and his team of advisors made several proposals to the Board of Trustees for programs that could be created to further the Getty’s mission of "the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge," as directed by J. Paul Getty’s will. The establishment of an arts library had been proposed as early as 1977 by Museum director Stephen Garrett; in February 1982 Williams’ chief deputy, Nancy Englander, expanded upon Garrett's idea and outlined a proposed “Center for Advanced Study.” This proposed center would include a residence program for scholars, a major expansion of the library, a limited publications program, and an art photo archive. The activities of the center would also focus on preserving historic materials in the field of art history and the development of new reference tools for the field, using the latest in information technologies. The plan was approved, and the program known as the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities officially opened in July 1983.

The GCHAH progressed quickly during its first few years. Architectural historian Kurt Forster became the first director; he was hired in October 1983 and began leading the GCHCH in the fall of 1984. In an effort to create a premier repository for manuscript collections related to artists and the field of art history at the GCHAH, Forster added the Archives of the History of Art. Not only did the Archives serve as a repository for materials on art history, but it also housed the historical records of the Museum and the Trust. In the fall of 1985 the GCHAH launched the Visiting Scholar Program, inviting 17 scholars and fellows to explore the theme “Aesthetic Experience and Affinities Among the Arts.”

Due to expanded operations and limited space at the original J. Paul Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades, California, the various programs of the J. Paul Getty Trust were located at different sites throughout the Los Angeles basin during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Trust's vision was to bring together most of their programs at a single site, but until that vision became a reality, the GCHAH was "temporarily" located in the First Federal Building at 401 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. The construction of the new Getty Center in Brentwood took longer than originally anticipated and 401 Wilshire was occupied by the GCHAH from 1983 to 1997.

In order to fulfill its commitment to the development and diffusion of research in the history of art and the humanities, the GCHAH supported a variety of activities in resource collecting, scholarship, publications, exhibitions, conferences, and public lectures. 401 Wilshire was a “run-of-the-mill office building” that required considerable renovation to meet the GCHAH's growing need for both public and working spaces. Batey & Mack, a San Francisco firm, designed the first renovation of the temporary quarters for the GCHAH on two floors (floors 4 and 7) of 401 Wilshire. In 1991, the GCHAH expanded to occupy two more floors (floors 8 and 9), and Richard Meier & Partners, who were concurrently working on the Brentwood project, were retained to renovate the new floors. Floors 5 and 6 were also utilized, though it is unclear when they were first occupied by the GCHAH.

During its occupancy of 401 Wilshire Boulevard the GCHAH used the space as follows:

  • 4th Floor: Library, the Archives of the History of Art (later known as Special Collections), Museum curatorial offices (which later became the space for GCHAH Publications), Mailroom, Display space for collections
  • 5th Floor: Library
  • 6th Floor: Photo Archives (Photo Study Collection), Scholars, and Visual Media Services
  • 7th Floor: Administration, Museum Department of Photography, and Gallery (which was open to the public Monday through Friday at no charge)
  • 8th Floor: Trust offices
  • 9th Floor: Trust offices
  • 10th Floor: Museum Department of Sculpture (which later became the space for AccAcc – Accelerated Accessions), Provenance Index, Collection Development, and Vocabularies
  • 11th Floor: Art History Information Program and Information Technology Services

Over the years the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities experienced several significant changes. In June 1992 Kurt Forster left the GCHAH, and Tom Reese was promoted to acting director while the Trust conducted a search for a new director. In January 1994 Salvatore Settis became director of the GCHAH. In 1996, in order to avoid confusion with the soon-to-open Getty Center in Brentwood, the GCHAH was renamed the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities. Three years later the program's name was shortened to the Getty Research Institute (GRI).

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