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RG 30/262 - Athena Tacha (1936-    )
Scope and Content

The papers of Athena Tacha primarily document her teaching as a member of the Oberlin College Department of Art, and her role as Consultant Curator of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oberlin, Ohio. Tacha used these materials in writing the manuscript “Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: the story of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House.”

The collection is organized into two Subgroups, I. Materials Relating to Athena Tacha and II. Materials relating to the Weltzheimer/Johnson House and Frank Lloyd Wright. Subgroup I is further subdivided into five series: 1. Biographical Files, 2. The Ellen Johnson Estate, 3. Instructional Files, 4. Files Relating to Service to Oberlin College, and 5. Audio Tapes. Subgroup II. also contains five series, 1. Correspondence, 2. Materials relating to the manuscript “Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: the story of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House” 3. Property Records, 4.Clippings & Printed Matter, and 5. Photographs & Negatives.

The bulk of the materials relating to Athena Tacha, concern her teaching of art courses in the Department of Art at Oberlin College. The instructional files provide documentation relating to thirteen classes taught by Tacha and many of the winter term projects that she sponsored. Handwritten notes, class project descriptions and syllabi comprise most of the material within these files, and include classes such as Introductory Sculpture (1975-96) and New Approaches and Techniques in Sculpture (1969-82). Biographical materials include a curriculum vitae, a list of her art commissions, and a biographical sketch.

Materials relating to the Weltzheimer/Johnson House and Frank Lloyd Wright contain an extensive amount of information on the house. Deeply involved in the life of Ellen Hulda Johnson, Tacha served as Executrix of Johnson’s estate (see Subgroup I). Having made a previous agreement with Oberlin College, the Weltzheimer/Johnson house was donated to the college upon the death of Ellen Johnson. Aside from helping to make that transition, Tacha also served as the first Consultant Curator of the house. Tacha assumed responsibility for Johnson’s papers concerning the house, and in her involvement with the structure, she added to the files, which she donated to the Oberlin College Archives.

The Property Records consist of reports, maintenance information, and policies and procedures regarding the care and operation of the Weltzheimer/Johnson house. Of special interest are the files that contain historic structure reports and folders containing correspondence regarding the discussions between Tacha and Oberlin College President Fred Starr over the interpretation of Johnson’s agreement with the College regarding the use of the house.

Materials relating to the manuscript “Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: the story of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House” are primarily comprised of Tacha’s drafts. The manuscript appeared in the Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin in 1995 and can be found in the Art Library collection. Tacha’s research notes for this bulletin are limited, however they do include Ellen Johnson’s interviews with several former owners of the residence.

Clippings concerning Frank Lloyd Wright and the structures that he designed compose the bulk of the Clippings/Printed Matter series. Several files contain notes and clippings on topics such as the Tokyo Hotel dinnerware designed by Wright and the Weltzheimer/Johnson house. The dinnerware is of special significance as Johnson purchased several pieces for the residence, where they remain on display.

Series Descriptions

Subgroup I. Materials Relating to Athena Tacha

Series 1. Biographical File, 1986, 1995, 2002

One file consisting of a biographical sketch, list of works, commissions and exhibits concerning Athena Tacha’s professional career.

Series 2. The Ellen Johnson Estate, 1977-95, n.d. (2f)

Two files consisting of correspondence and lists regarding Tacha’s work in closing the Ellen Johnson estate. The files concern Johnson’s belongings, her gifts to Oberlin College, specifically the Art Museum, and donations made to that institution in her name after her death. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series 3. Instructional Files, 1970-96, n.d. (44f)

The instructional files include notes, syllabi and project ideas concerning art classes taught by Athena Tacha from 1969 to 1996 at Oberlin College. Her classes ranged from Sculpture to Video, Film and Photography and Welding. The inventory contains a complete listing of the classes.

Other Miscellaneous files concern art supplies, art competitions, and winter term projects, 1980-96, sponsored by Tacha. The files in this series are arranged chronologically. All course examinations are restricted.

Series 4. Files relating to Service to Oberlin College, 1974-95, n.d. (11f)

This series contains correspondence and materials relating to the Art Department, 1974-89, Museum Personnel Training Program, 1966, and Visiting Artists and Art Historians, 1973-95. A separate file contains correspondence from Tacha regarding general college matters. Six files contain minutes and correspondence relating to Tacha’s service on the following committees: Computing, Sexual Harassment, Applied Mathematics, Sloan Foundation, Environmental Studies and Honorary degrees. A restricted file concerning the 1992 search for the Art Museum Director is also included. The Series is arranged chronologically.

Series 5. Audio Tapes, 1974

This series contains two tapes, original and copy, of a lecture of Tacha (1974).

Subgroup II. Materials Relating to the Weltzheimer/Johnson House and Frank Lloyd Wright

Series 1. Correspondence, 1968-97, n.d. (5f)

This series contains the correspondence relating to the maintenance and custodial care of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House. Included are postcards written to Johnson and letters of Ellen Johnson and Athena Tacha (incoming and outgoing). The correspondence is arranged alphabetically within each file.

Series 2. Materials relating to the manuscript “Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: the story of the Weltzheimer/Johnson House”, 1995 (9f)

This series contains materials relating to Tacha’s essay which appeared in the Allen Art Museum Bulletin in 1995. Included are research notes of Ellen Johnson and Tacha and four drafts of the essay with comments in the margins (1995). The Series is arranged chronologically.

Series 3. Property Records, 1976-98 (29f)

This series contains several files covering maintenance (1992-98), the consultant curator position (1997-98), legal documents regarding the use of the property (1977-92), the 1995 roof restoration (1977-96), policies and procedures (1992-95), grant information (1988-94), and purchases (1992-97). Also included are the 1995 Historical Structure Report and some miscellaneous information primarily regarding a security matter (1976-81). The series is arranged chronologically.

Series 4. Clippings and Printed Matter, 1969-95 (20f)

The clippings concern the Weltzheimer/Johnson House (1971-95), the Tokyo Hotel Dinnerware designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1968-84), and general clippings concerning Wright’s life, his wife and his architectural designs (1969-93). The printed matter includes newsletters (1977-90) and exhibition catalogs (1977-90) relating to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and family life and a set of general printed matter. All files are arranged chronologically with the exception of the printed matter regarding Wright’s designs which is arranged alphabetically by construction name.

Series 5. Photographs and Negatives, n.d. (2f)

This sparse series contains images of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and Louis Sullivan buildings. Wright worked and studied under Sullivan before beginning his solo career. The contents are arranged alphabetically by the name fo the building.


The papers of Athena Tacha were received from her in three installments in 1996 and 1998. [Acc. 1996/001, 1998/101, 1998/129]

Related Materials

The researcher should also consult the Ellen Johnson Papers (RG 30/243); the Frank Lloyd Wright Papers (RG 30/146), which contain several of Wright’s original letters regarding the house; and, the records of the Allen Memorial Art Museum (RG 9/3).

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