WMU Libraries staff support Smithsonian research into graphic designer, sunburst seal

Contact: Sara Volmering
Original drawings and notes by Crimilda Pontes, 1965, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 89-024, Box 4

Original drawings and notes by Crimilda Pontes, 1965, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 89-024, Box 4

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When researchers encounter something unexpected, their curiosity can drive them in a new direction, and to work with the library.  Answering questions—including obscure or tricky ones—is one of a librarian’s many talents. Recently, WMU Libraries’ special collections staff and librarian helped the Smithsonian Archives find answers about the designer of their iconic sunburst seal.

Smithsonian staff were looking for historical graphics in their archives for an event when they stumbled upon hand-drawn logos and notes from an unknown designer. They had rediscovered the earliest known copy of the Smithsonian’s sunburst logo and possibly the designer who created it. A question emerged: who was Crimilda Pontes?

Using the archives at the Smithsonian and assistance from WMU Libraries’ special collection team, they were able to fill in Pontes’s history. WMU Libraries holds Crimilda Pontes Graphic Arts Archive and provided images and information for the Smithsonian’s project, helping to piece together her body of work and history.

Pontes, who died in 2000, was a graphic designer and calligrapher, specializing in book covers and dust jackets for commercial book companies.

The majority of the Pontes archive focuses on her career at Yale University Press and the Smithsonian Institute where she designed and redesigned banners, logos, posters and the institution's seal.   She worked at the Smithsonian for 23 years, retiring in 1988.

WMU’s Crimilda Pontes Graphic Arts Archive is housed in 18 custom-made archival enclosures, approximately 12 linear feet. It contains a variety of items from correspondence, photographs, maps, sketches and bibliographical files, to name a few.  It was acquired for research and teaching for students of history and graphic design.

Read the Smithsonian’s article about this project: https://siarchives.si.edu/blog/crimilda-pontes-original-designer-smithsonian-sunburst

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.