History of the LRC

LRC Opening Reception, Sep 21, 1987. From left: Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, Krystyna Wasserman, Anne Imelda M Radice
LRC Opening Reception, Sep 21, 1987. From left: Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, Krystyna Wasserman, Anne Imelda M Radice

Learn about the history of the Library and Resource Center, which helps fulfill the museum’s mission by facilitating serious scholarship on women artists.

Read on to learn more about how the LRC was founded and supported, and the history of previous programs, including the Dettre Graduate Archival Internship Program, the Mellor Prize Award, and the Library Fellows Program.

History of the LRC

The museum’s founders, Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, understood from the moment of its inception the importance of creating a research center for the serious study of art by women.

Major contributors for the development of the LRC included AT&T, which funded the main reading room, The Kathleen Price and Joseph M. Bryan Family Foundation, which funded the acquisition of display cases and the inaugural exhibition of artists’ books, The Heart Foundation, which donated furnishings for the library, and The Mars Foundation, which provided funds for the rare book room. Other important donations were made by The Home Library Foundation, The Marks Foundation, The Queene Ferry Coonley Foundation, individual contributors, art librarians, and museum members.  In celebration of its official opening in its present location, Krystyna presented a special exhibition of artists’ books, The Book as Art, from September 22–December 31, 1987.

In 2012, the LRC received a major endowment gift from Betty Boyd Dettre, NMWA charter member, Mississippi State Committee member and past president, and NMWA Advisory Board member. The library was renamed in her honor. The gift provides important funding for staff and resources to facilitate scholarship on women artists. Dettre, who was born in Mississippi, first had a career with the U.S. Department of State. Stationed in North Africa and Vietnam, she earned the Medal for Civilian Service and a Certificate of Recognition. In her second career as an artist, Dettre has continued to be a leader, and she is a tireless advocate for women in the arts, past and present.

LRC Program History

Dettre Graduate Archival Internship Program2011-2014

This intensive part-time internship program, generously sponsored by Betty Boyd Dettre, provided three promising graduate-level archival/library science students a $10,000 stipend over 12 months to put into practice what they learned in school and to support the Archives of Women Artists and the Institutional Archives. The recipients assisted in inventory and appraisal, processed, arranged and re-housed materials, and described collections in finding aids. All three interns have positively contributed to the our archives.


  • 2013-2014: Elizabeth Beckman
  • 2012-2013: Julia Viets
  • 2011-2012: Nancy Cooey

Mellor Prize Award: 2009-2014

This generous grant of $50,000, sponsored by Suzanne and James Mellor, was awarded annually to the author of the best proposal for a scholarly book on an individual woman artist or subject related to the mission of NMWA. The purpose of the award was to encourage the highest quality scholarship on women artists from any time period or nationality, and to enhance the role of the museum in shaping scholarly dialogue on women in the arts.


  • 2014: Jo Applin
    Not Working: Lee Lozano Versus the Art World, 1961-1971
  • 2013: Carole Blumenfeld
    Marguerite Gérard
  • 2012: Geneviève Haroche-Bouzinac
    Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, histoire d’un regard (English Translation)
  • 2011: Nelleke Nix and Helga Prignitz-Poda in collaboration with NMWA
    Frida Kahlo Letters at the National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • 2010: Jeffrey Hamburger
    Elizabeth of Lünen: Liturgy, Learning and Performance at Paradies bei Soest, 1300–1425
  • 2009: Melissa Hyde and Mary Sheriff
    Women in French Art: Rococo to Romanticism 1750–1830

Library Fellows Artist’s Book Program, 1989-2013

The Library Fellows Program was established in 1989 to encourage and support the creation of artists’ books and to benefit the NMWA Library and Research Center (LRC). The Fellows’ contributions were used to offer a grant to a selected artist to produce an artist’s book in a limited edition of 125 copies. As a benefit of membership, each Fellow received a copy of the book. The artists kept 25 copies as a form of remuneration for their creative efforts. The remaining copies were sold in support of the LRC. From 1990–2013, 21 artists’ books were published.

You may purchase a copy of a winning book in the following three ways:

  • At the museum shop
  • By email: shop@nmwa.org
  • By phone: 877-226-5294

Display copies are available at the NMWA Library and Research Center and the NMWA Museum Shop.

View high-resolution photos of the books 

National Museum of Women in the Arts