Much of SITES’ initial success was due to Pope, director from 1952 to 1963. Her combination of professional experience and personal ties to the art world brought SITES the favorable attention of the museum community in a relatively short period of time. She was a dedicated proponent of introducing Americans to neverbefore-seen artwork, and by1962 SITES was circulating 135 exhibitions to 316 museums within the U.S. and abroad.
The first major SITES exhibition was considered, at the time, to be the most important exhibition of its kind on the subject. French Drawings of Five Centuries premiered at the National Gallery of Art in December 1952 and toured to Cleveland, St. Louis, Boston, and New York. The exhibition featured 176 drawings by 70 artists from Fouquet to Cezanne lent by the Louvre and other noted collections in France and the Netherlands. A number of these had never before been shown publicly, and none had ever been shown to American audiences. About a third of SITES’ early exhibitions and some of its most well known, such as Goya Drawings and Prints, 7,000 Years of Iranian Art, Tutankhamun Treasures, and Indian Paintings from Rajasthan, were the result of internationalcollaborations.
From 1952 until about 1966, SITES circulated exhibitions mainly in the field of fine arts. However, administrators at other agencies of the Smithsonian, in particular the United States National Museum (USNM), now the National Museum of Natural History, were closely watching the progress of SITES’ traveling exhibitions and measuring its potential in other fields of interest and education. Not surprisingly then, in 1966 SITES was placed under the USNM for several years and began the gradual expansion of its scope to include crafts, photography, history, and science.
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