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Priscilla Van der Poel Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00107

Scope and Contents

The Priscilla Van der Poel Papers, 1926-1994, contain materials primarily concerned with the professor's teaching career at Smith, but also reveal much about her social life. Types of materials include correspondence, clippings, programs, notes, typescripts, photographs, diaries, and collected ephemera.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1926 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Priscilla Paine was born on April 9, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York, to Frederick H. and Mary (Tillinghast) Paine. She graduated from Smith College in 1928 and went to Europe to continue her artistic development. In Rome she attended the British Academy before returning to New York City to participate in the Art Students League. She also studied interior design at the New York School of Interior Decoration, and completed several decorating jobs in New York and later Northampton (including a few Smith College buildings). Van der Poel wrote in her resume that she left a "salary offer of $3900 in New York for one of $600 here at Smith, because she cared about art, about studying, about teaching, and about Smith College, more than about New York business." She joined the faculty of the Department of Art in 1934. In 1937, she completed a master's degree, also from Smith. It appears Paine married around 1938, when she begins to be listed as Mrs. Van der Poel in the course catalogs, but there does not seem to be any mention of her husband in this collection of papers.

Van der Poel's main professional interests were modern art, design and decoration, and Latin-American art. Early in her teaching career, she was assigned introductory studio art and design courses. Later, in addition to the design courses, she taught modern art and art theory courses. In 1945 she was promoted from assistant to associate professor. Van der Poel also held many administrative positions, but she remained adamant that teaching, not administrative work, was her passion. Besides a prominent role as the Dean of the Class of 1949, she served on the college admission board, the scholarship committee, the Administrative Board, the Conference Committee, the Honors Committee, the Committee in Honorary Degrees, and was chairman of the Lecture Committee from 1950-52. She also served a distinguished term as chairman of the Art Department from 1955 to 1958. She retired in 1972.

Van der Poel traveled abroad frequently throughout her life. She often went to Europe for the summer to conduct special studies and collect photographs and materials for Smith courses. She collected modern art and donated her entire collection to the Smith College Museum of Art before her death. Her active social life revolved around dinner parties that she hosted almost weekly during the latter part of her career. A colleague remembers, "Her elegance was striking, and so were the style and generosity of her hospitality, which was often displayed at gatherings at her apartment." She died on March 19, 1994 at the age of 86.


3.354 linear feet (5 containers)

Language of Materials



The Priscilla Van der Poel Papers contain materials primarily concerned with the professor's teaching career at Smith, but also reveal much about her social life. Material includes correspondence, programs, writings, photographs, diaries, and collected ephemera.


This collection is organized into eight series:

  1. I. Biography
  2. II. Professional Activities
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Travel
  5. V. Writings
  6. VI. Social Activities
  7. VII. Photographs
  8. VII. Oversize Materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Priscilla Van der Poel Papers were donated by Mrs. Elliott Carlisle in April 1988.

Related Material

See also 52. Art Department Records

Processing Information

Processed by Christina Lehman '03.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Priscilla Van der Poel Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Christina Lehman '03
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca107 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-13: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063