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Kennedy Family papers

Identifier: CA-MS-01101

Scope and Contents

The Kennedy Family papers consist primarily of the professional and personal papers of Smith College art professors Clarence Kennedy and Ruth Wedgewood Kennedy, as well as family papers and memorabilia assembled by their daughter Melinda Kennedy (Class of 1945), and Melinda's writings and personal papers.

Dates of Materials

  • 1706 - 2006


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

To the extent that she owns copyright, Amy de Salvatore has retained copyright in works created by the Kennedy Family donated to Smith College. 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 those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by [donor], 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

Clarence Kennedy was born in Philadelphia in 1892. He received his bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, and studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece, as a Charles Eliot Norton Fellow of Harvard University. While working on his Ph.D. at Harvard, he joined the Smith College Art Department faculty. Kennedy received his doctorate from Harvard in 1924. His dissertation was titled The Effect of Lighting on Greek Sculpture.

Ruth Wedgewood Doggett was born in Greenville, Rhode Island in 1896, and was raised in Springfield, MA, where her father was President of Springfield College. She attended the University of California at Berkeley for two years and completed her undergraduate education at Radcliffe College with a degree in Economics, magna cum laude. She taught at Smith College in the Economics Department for a year after her graduation and then spent a year at Lady Margaret Hall of Oxford University furthering her study of economics.

Clarence Kennedy and Ruth Wedgewood (Doggett) Kennedy were married in England in 1921. At the time Clarence was traveling in Italy and Greece, photographing classical sculpture. The next fall they returned to Northampton, where both had held positions in the Art and Economics departments, respectively. In 1923 the Kennedys moved to Florence to teach in the Art Department’s Division of Graduate Study program. By this time Ruth had begun to establish herself as a Renaissance scholar, while Clarence continued his photographic and academic work. Their collaboration was continuous and they were among the pioneers of modern techniques in the study of art history. Among their innovations was the teaching of art history in situ instead of in the classroom. During this time the Kennedys had two children, Melinda, born in 1924, and Robert, called Bobby, born in 1928.

Ruth Kennedy was a member of the Art Department from 1941 to 1961. She taught courses on Italian Renaissance artists and on the cultures and cities that informed their art. During her time at Smith she undertook research on Alesso Baldovinetti, Fra Bartolomeo, Francesco Laurana, as well as projects on flowers in Renaissance art. She also was active nationally and internationally in her field of Renaissance art; her articles and reviews appeared often in art journals and she served on the editorial board of Art in America, Renaissance Quarterly, and the Art Bulletin. During her career Ruth received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Philosophical Society. She also lectured at other institutions, including Springfield College and Wellesley College.

From 1928 to 1932, Clarence Kennedy and Smith College published Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, a seven-part series of volumes, issued in editions of 100, containing over three hundred black and white gelatin photographs of Ancient and Renaissance sculpture.

After Clarence and Ruth’s return to Northampton from Italy in 1933, Clarence continued to teach art history and photography; he soon added typography to his courses when he and Ruth set up the Cantina Press in their home at 44 Pomeroy Terrace in 1936-37. Cantina Press published little under its own imprint, but the Kennedys helped to establish the tradition of typography and printing at Smith College and produced much ephemeral work, such as invitations, broadsides, and programs.

Clarence Kennedy collaborated with scientist and inventor Edwin H. Land, co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation, on a system for the projection of stereoscopic lantern slides using Land’s invention of Polaroid filters over the lenses of a double projector. Viewing the projected images through special glasses with Polaroid filters identical to those on the projectors, the audience could see the image in three dimensions. Clarence also worked with Land during World War II on development of a Vectograph system using polarized stereographic images for three-dimensional maps. He was a member of the Monuments and Fine Arts Commission, established by the United States government to minimize the destruction of works of art within enemy-held territory during World War II. Clarence was also a consultant to the Eastman Kodak Company on photographic matters.

Together, Ruth and Clarence were invited to serve as Resident Art Historians at the American Academy in Rome for 1960-61.

Ruth Kennedy became a Professor Emeritus at Smith in 1961, but continued to lecture, research, and work on potential publications until her sudden death after a short illness on November 30, 1968 in Boston.

Clarence Kennedy retired from Smith in 1960, and died on July 29, 1972 in Northampton.

Melinda Kennedy (1924-2002) was the first child and only daughter of Clarence and Ruth Kennedy. Melinda attended Smith College and graduated with the class of 1945. Melinda was married for several years to Alfred Lester Talkington, who was known as Hank. Melinda and Hank had two daughters, Sylvia and Amy. Hank also had a daughter, Jo Lynn, from a previous marriage. Melinda was a poet and translator, and taught English for many years at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, CT.


79.647 linear feet (96 containers)

Language of Materials



The Kennedy Family papers contains materials documenting the lives and careers of Clarence and Ruth Kennedy, faculty in the Smith College Art Department.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the colleciton was donated in August of 2008 by Amy de Salvatore, a granddaughter of Clarence and Ruth Kennedy.

Additional materials were transferred from the Department of Art, 2002.

Note on Abbreviations

The following abbreviations have been used throughout the collection, primarily in Series III: Clarence and Ruth Kennedy Correspondence and in Series V: Photographs.

Clarence Kennedy
Ruth Wedgewood Kennedy
Melinda Kennedy, daughter of CK and RWK
Bobby Kennedy, son of CK and RWK
Carolyn Doggett, RWK’s mother
Laurence L. Doggett, RWK’s father
Clinton Doggett, Jr., son of LLD and CD
Alfred Lester Talkington (Hank), MK’s husband
Jo Lynn Talkington, ALT’s daughter
Slyvia Talkington, daughter of ALT and MK
Amy Talkington, daughter of ALT and MK, now Amy de Salvatore
Finding aid to the Kennedy Family papers.
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Amanda Lineweber and Leslie Fields
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • September 17, 2019: Imported legacy finding aid and updated to current standards
  • 2020-10-19: Boxes added and finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Collection Control Project

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063