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Margot Wells Backas and James J. Backas papers

 Collection — Box: 1-2
Identifier: BMC-M136

Scope and Contents

This collection consists mostly of letters sent to Margot and Jim Backas by artist Anne Truitt between the years of 1976 and 2004. There are some newspaper clippings, advertisements for Truitt’s art exhibits and other incoming correspondence to the couple. Truitt writes regarding Margot Backas’ role as her literary executer as well as personal correspondence.


  • Creation: 1970 - 2004


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Margot Wells Backas and James J. Backas papers are the physical property of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors' heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Margot Wells Backas grew up in Pennsylvania, attending the Quaker boarding school, Westtown, located in West Chester, PA. She then attended Vassar College and went on to receive her MA in American cultural history from Harvard. Margot was a strong supporter of the arts in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore area. She was the humanities editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press, resurrected the New York publishing firm of Horace Liveright, and was an administrator at the National Endowment for Humanities. Backas joined the William Steinway Diary project at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2002 and continues to be a researcher there. Additionally, Backas has written book reviews for the Times of London and The Washington Post, among other publications. Backas serves as the literary executor of Anne Truitt’s estate.

In 1973, Margot married fellow patron of the arts, James J. Backas (1926-2003) in 1973. Jim was an accomplished musician who received his doctorate of arts in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. Backas was the founding director of the American Arts Alliance in Washington, D.C. and executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council. While he loved classical music, Backas advocated for more funding of folk life and folk artists. Mr. Backas was a lecturer of music history at the Peabody Conservatory. He died of a heart attack at the age of 77 in his Georgetown home on June 25, 2003.


1 linear ft. (2 document boxes)

Language of Materials



Margot and Jim Backas were strong supporters of the arts in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area. They held numerous leadership and administrative positions in various arts organizations. Margot was artist Anne Truitt’s literary executor and good friend. Included in this collection are letters from Truitt, newspaper clippings and advertisements for art exhibits.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Margot Wells Backas and James J. Backas.

Margot Wells Backas and James J. Backas papers
In Progress
Elizabeth Reilly
2014 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Bryn Mawr College Library

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