The archive was assembled after the death of Harry Smith, polymath filmmaker, painter, and collector of American vernacular
art, music, and artifacts. It contains correspondence from the last three years of Smith's life, a selection of Smith's manuscripts
and art, most of his original films, his final audio project,
Materials for the Study of Religion and Culture in the Lower East Side or Movies for Blind People, and a sizeable portion
of his realia collections, including paper airplanes.
Harry Smith, polymath filmmaker, painter, and collector of American vernacular art, music, and artifacts, was born on May
23, 1923 in Portland, Oregon. Smith grew up in Washington state, moving between the small rural towns of Anacortes and Bellingham,
in the center of Pacific Northwest Coast Indian territory. Smith's father, Robert James Smith, worked in the salmon industry
successively as a marine engineer, boat captain, and night watchman. His mother, Mary Louise Hammond, taught on the Lummi
Indian Reservation from 1925 to 1932.The Harry Smith Archives was created in 1992 after Smith's death. Committed to the location, preservation and presentation
of the work of artist Harry Smith, it is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered in the State of New York since
1998. On December 2nd, 1991, five days after Harry Smith died at the Chelsea Hotel, a group of Smith's colleagues gathered
in the apartment of Raymond Foye. Attendees included Allen Ginsberg, Jonas Mekas, Joe Gross, Bill Breeze, Rani Singh, Deborah
Freeman and others. The focus of the meeting was to discuss an immediate plan to collect and catalog Smith's remaining belongings
and surmise about his continuing legacy.