A Guide to the Dr. Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection, 1700's-2013 (bulk 1957-2011)
Whitney Smith (born February 26, 1940) conceived of the term vexillology in 1957, synthesizing the Latin word vexillum (flag) and the Greek suffix -logia (study). Vexillology, originally a sub-discipline of heraldry, is the "scientific study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general."
In 1961, Smith co-founded The Flag Bulletin, the first journal in the world devoted to study of flags. The following year in 1962, Smith founded the Flag Research Center in Winchester, Massachusetts. Smith received his Bachelor's degree from Harvard University (1961) and his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1968, completing his dissertation, "Prolegomena to the Study of Political Symbolism," the same year. After graduating from Harvard, Smith served as professor of political science at Boston University.
Smith worked with the international community to organize the First International Congress of Vexillology in 1965, and then co-founded and the International Federation of Vexillological Associations in 1969. The North American Vexillological Association was founded two years prior in 1967. Smith is Secretary-General Emeritus of FIAV and President Emeritus of NAVA.
Smith has written 27 books on the subject of flags, notably Flags through the Ages and Across the World and The Flag Book of the United States. Smith was the designer of the national flag of Guyana, adopted in 1966, and also known as the Golden Arrowhead.
The Dr. Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection reflects Dr. Whitney Smith's professional and personal activities throughout his lifelong interest and career in vexillology. The collection documents Dr. Smith's early vexillological research through the founding of the Flag Research Center and the North American Vexillological Association (1962 and 1967 respectively), and his later work as one of the world's foremost flag experts.
The collection is arranged in eight series: Flag Research Center Subject Files; Flag Research Center Archives; Dr. Whitney Smith Collection; Ottfried Neubecker Heraldry Collection; Vexillologists Collection; Flag Charts; Printed Material and Ephemera; and Artifacts and Flags. Whenever possible, the original order of the collection was maintained, but in some series there was no discernible order; detailed information regarding the order and arrangement of each series can be found in the Scope and Contents for each individual series.
The Flag Research Center Subject Files are comprised mostly of articles, fact sheets, original research, images, correspondence, and clippings from various sources relating to flags of the world and topical subjects. The files are largely organized by geographical location, first by continent or region, then by country, and so on. Materials in the folders are in a variety of languages and include flag specifications, correspondence about flag design, sketches, photographs, newspaper clippings, periodical articles, and photocopies from archival collections, pamphlets, booklets, reproductions of rare books, and small banners or flag examples. This series largely reflects the order of the collection received by the Briscoe Center and all efforts were made to maintain the existing order. As a result, the series reflects broad categories and similar information can be found in different files. When clarification of order is needed, an archivist's note can be found. This inventory provides a detailed folder-level list of the contents of the Flag Research Center Subject Files.
The Flag Research Center Archives are comprised mostly of correspondence on the behalf of the Flag Research Center, financial records, inventories, and business documents.
The Dr. Whitney Smith Collection are comprised of personal and professional materials from Dr. Smith. The collection includes drafts, proofs, and final copies of his publications (both book and articles), lecture notes and transcripts, personal artifacts and mementos, family records, and correspondence on behalf of Dr. Smith. For much of the Flag Research Center's existence, Dr. Smith was the only curator and scholar, so the distinction between the Dr. Smith Collection and the Flag Research Center Archives in minimal. As a result, similar (and sometimes identical) information can be found in the Flag Research Center Archives. When clarification of order is needed an archivist's note can be found.
The Ottfried Neubecker Heraldry Collection totals 88 linear feet. Biographical Notes and the Scope and Contents for the collection can be found below.
The Vexillologists Collection totals 8 linear feet and contains the papers of John Purcell, dates, donated by Mr. Hugh Brady, and others. Biographical and Historical Notes and the Scope and Contents for the collection can be found below.
The Flag Charts Collection comprised of charts depicting historical and contemporary world flags. The collection has been divided into three subseries- historical flag charts, contemporary flag charts (charts produced after 1950), and flag charts produced by Dr. Whitney Smith or the Flag Research Center (charts that Dr. Smith may have provided consultation on are not included in this subseries). Within their respective subseries, the charts are largely organized by geographical location, region, and country. Flag charts depicting flags of the world are described first in the inventory. For the purpose of this collection, a flag chart is defined as a graphic document primarily designed to provide information on a multitude of flags at once by displaying images of flags with identifying captions. Charts of other representational materials (that are reflected in the large collection), such as emblems, crests, coats of arms, and heraldry are considered flag charts. This definition of a flag chart makes a distinction between a graphic document created for informational or research purposes and a graphic document created for presentation, advertisement, and decoration. These types of materials are organized within the Printed Material and Ephemera series. Often the distinction between these two types of information is slight and/or subjective and as a result, similar information can be found in different series. An archivist's note is included whenever possible.
The Printed Material and Ephemera Collection are comprised of mostly visual documents depicting or referencing flags in many varieties; this includes- pamphlets; lithograph prints; song sheets; trade cards; paper dolls; posters; broadsheets; and more. This series accounts for a large portion of the collection and contains the most images of flags throughout history. The series is divided into two large subseries- the United States and the World. The World is then divided into subseries based on continent, region, country, and state. In each subseries the materials are then divided by type and form, examples of which are listed above. In support of the Briscoe Center's mission, materials related to the United States are described to the most specific level whenever possible. Often distinction between material type and form is minimal or subjective and as a result similar items can be found in different subseries. Related material notes are provided whenever possible to avoid confusion.
The Artifacts and Flags Collection contains items such as flags, memorabilia, miniatures, buttons and pins, and other kitsch materials. This collection is extensive and is currently unprocessed and thus closed to research.
In addition to the eight series listed, the Dr. Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection was donated with an accompanying collection of books and periodicals. These separate collections are currently unprocessed and thus closed to research. Please contact the repository for more information. Materials are in numerous languages, mostly comprised of English, German, and French. Other languages are noted.
The bulk of this collection is open for research use. For preservation concerns, some original materials may be restricted.
Access to portions of this collection are restricted. Contact repository for further information.
The bulk of this collection is stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
Dr. Whitney Smith Flag Research Center Collection, c. 1700's-2013 (bulk 1957-2011), Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Kate Wilson, August 2015
AR 2016-031 added by Colleen Hobbs, April 2016
This collection contains unprocessed materials.
Detailed Description of the Papers