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The William Robert Gaines Personal Papers (SC-16)

Identifier: SC-16

Scope and Content Note

This collection is a documentation of the life of William Robert Gaines, artist and longtime program director for the VMFA. It includes a partial manuscript of his autobiography, photos, articles and other documents related to his time at the VMFA.

Comprised of two binders created by Gaines himself. One titled “Virginia Museum 1948-82” which was presented to him in 1982 when he retired from the Programs Division. He added a few newer items. The other is a printed copy of “Buddy/Bill: An Autobograph of William Robert Gaines” which he wrote.


  • 1948-2008

Biographical Note

Painter, dancer and long time Program Director for the VMFA. According to the autobiography that is included in this collection, William Robert Gaines, known as “Buddy”, was born in Madison County, Va, 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 then 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 VMFA where he would remain until 1982. While there, he created a series of television programs on art for Virginia junior high school students that were ultimately picked up and 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 known for being the driver of the VMFA Artmobile, the first traveling art exhibition space in the world, during the 1950s. He died in May, 2013.


.2 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Includes an incomplete, typed draft of “Buddy/Bill: An Autobograph (sic) of William Robert Gaines”, photos, articles about Gaines.


This small collection is made up of three folders and is arranged chronologically within each folder. Undated items in folder three are place in the back of the folder in no particular order.

Folder 1: “Buddy/Bill: An Autobiography of William Robert Gaines” Folder 2: Photographs Folder 3: Newspaper Articles Folder 4: Programs, Awards Folder 5: Notes/Correspondence


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

Processing Information

The collection was processed between January and February 2014. During processing, original newspaper clippings were photocopied and the autobiography was removed from its original, deteriorating binder and placed in a folder.
Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the VMFA Archives | The William Robert Gaines Personal Papers
Special Collection 16 (SC-16)
Sylvio Lynch III
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Archives Repository

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