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William Robert Gaines Personal Papers (SC-16)

Identifier: SC-16


The collection documents the life of William "Bill" Robert Gaines, artist and long-time program director at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The collection is comprised of a partial manuscript of his autobiography as well as photographs, clippings, and other documents related to his career at the museum.


  • 1948-2008

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright, beyond that allowed by fair use, requires the researcher to obtain permission of copyright holders.

Biographical Note

William Robert Gaines, known as "Buddy", was born in Madison County, Virginia in 1927. After entering the Army Specialized Training Program in 1945, followed by a brief time at Virginia Tech, Gaines briefly enrolled in the regular army and ultimately studied fine art and education at the Richmond Professional Institute. After graduation in 1950, he attended Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, earning a master’s degree. In 1956, Gaines spent time painting in Italy before returning to Virginia in 1957 to work at the Virginia Museum of Fine ARts where he would remain until 1982.

At VMFA, Gaines created a series of television programs on art for Virginia junior high school students that were ultimately broadcast in an additional 13 states. This led to three more series of programs, all focusing on art and art education. Also an accomplished dancer, Gaines performed in the first musical performed at the Virginia Museum Theater, “Kiss Me Kate”, and many other productions, including “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, and “Too Darn Hot”. He was also the driver of the VMFA Artmobile in the 1950s, the first traveling art exhibition space. He died in May 2013 in Florida.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box; 5 folders)

Language of Materials



The collection is organized into two series, and items are generally arranged chronologically within each folder. Items with no date are generally placed at the end of each folder.

Series 1
Series 2
Personal Papers

Custodial History

This collection was donated by William Gaines in March 2008. He donated the materials after he was interviewed for an oral history.

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Books

  • Twelve American Painters: An Exhibition of Paintings by Twelve American Artists, Organized by William Gaines, 1974

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Exhibition File

  • Exhibition File: Virginia Artists: Behl, Gaines, and Jacobsen, 1960

Related Materials - VMFA Library: Artist File

  • Virginia Artist File: William Gaines

Processing Information

During processing, original newspaper clippings were photocopied and the autobiography was removed from its original, deteriorating binder and placed into a folder. The binder was titled “Virginia Museum 1948-82” and was presented to Gaines when he retired from the Programs Division.

Finding Aids to Special Collections in the VMFA Archives | William Robert Gaines Personal Papers
Special Collection 16 (SC-16)
Kevin Williams, Archives Intern; Finding aid encoded by Sylvio Lynch III, Archives Intern (2020)
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Archives Repository

Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library
200 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond VA 23220-4007 United States