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Dorothy Blair papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS 0872

Scope and Contents

The Dorothy Blair Papers date from circa 1913-1989 and consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, research materials, financial and estate records, memorabilia, a scrapbook, biographical information, and photographs. The materials primarily document her study and research concerning Japanese glass. Correspondence (1916-1989) concerns her studies and travels, especially in Japan, and also includes letters from Mount Holyoke administrators, faculty, and alumnae congratulating Blair on the honorary degree she received from the College in 1974. Additional letters concerning Blair after her death were written to John H. Martin, the retired Deputy Director of Administration at the Corning Museum of Glass. A detailed diary of time spent in Japan in 1927-1928 describes her daily activities and experiences, travels, the Japanese people and their traditions, and the many kinds of art she encountered. A diary from 1933 describes her research and travels in London, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia and includes comments on the rise of Nazism. Writings (1926-1981) consist of articles, reports, and speeches by Blair and manuscript versions of an account of her year in Japan in 1927-1928. Research materials (circa 1913-1961) are comprised of correspondence, notes, articles, publications, drawings, and photographs which chiefly relate to Japanese art and culture. Financial records (1981-1986) concern Blair's income at that time. Estate records (1986, 1987, 1989) consist of a copy of her will, her list of people to notify after her death, and letters to and from John H. Martin (who served as Blair's power of attorney and executor) discussing her declining health and the disposal of her belongings. The scrapbook was compiled for a celebration at the Corning Museum of Glass commemorating Blair's ninetieth birthday in 1980. It contains tributes from friends and colleagues and a list of contributors to the endowment fund the Museum established to support the study of Asian glass. Memorabilia (1890-circa 1974) includes a copy of Blair's birth certificate, programs for lectures by her, and an address book. Photographs (circa 1927-1974) include several portraits of Blair taken during her European trip in 1933, photographs of her during visits to Japan, and photographs documenting the presentation of an honorary degree to her in 1974. There are also many photographs of people and scenes taken during Blair's 1927-1928 stay in Japan.


  • 1914 - 1989

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical note:

Dorothy Blair was born on September 10, 1890 in Webster Groves, Missouri, to Edmund Hugh Blair and Grace Preston Abbott Blair. She grew up in Alton, Illinois, graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1914, and was an assistant in the Art and Archaeology Department at the College from 1914-1916. She was Secretary to the Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art 1917-1922, an Assistant in the Oriental Department at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1922-1923, and Assistant Director and Curator of Prints and European Art at the John Herron Art Institute, 1923-1926. A year (1927-1928) as a special guest student in the Department of Archaeology, College of Literature, Kyoto (Japan) Imperial University sparked a lifelong devotion to the study of Japanese life, culture and art, particularly Japanese glass. Blair then served as Assistant Curator of the Toledo Museum of Art from 1928 until her retirement in 1950, making research trips to Japan until the outbreak of World War II. From 1937-1941 she was a part-time postgraduate student at the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. In 1952, she became an assistant director of the University's Center for Japanese Studies in Okayama, Japan and from 1954-1956 she independently continued her research in the development of Japanese glass. She also enrolled in a two-year graduate program at the University to study the written Japanese language. From 1958-1961 she was a Research Fellow at the Corning Museum of Glass. She also traveled extensively in Japan, Korea, and Manchuria. Her research culminated in "A History of Glass in Japan," published jointly by Kodansha International Ltd. of Tokyo and the Corning Museum of Glass in 1973. The remaining years of her life were spent as a consultant and translator of Japanese for the Corning Museum. She died in Corning, New York on March 16, 1989 at the age of ninety-eight.


4 boxes (1.68 linear feet)

Language of Materials



Blair, Dorothy Lilian, 1890-1989; art historian and curator. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1914; Assistant, Mount Holyoke College Department of Art and Archaeology, 1914-1916. Papers date from circa 1913-1989 and consist of correspondence, dairies, writings, research materials, financial and estate records, memorabilia, a scrapbook, biographical information, and photographs which chiefly relate to her work as a museum curator and authority on the history of Japanese glass. Include diaries documenting her research and study in Japan (1927-1938) and Europe (1933) and an autobiographical recollection (1981) of her 1927-1928 stay in Japan.

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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA