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Charles S. Olton records

 Record Group
Identifier: PC-01-07-01


Consists of records created and received by Charles S. Olton, dean of Parsons School of Design from 1989 until 1997. Includes subject files on committees, departments and programs, events, individuals, international projects, and general administrative issues. Some files are restricted. Please email for details.


  • 1974 - 1999
  • Majority of material found within 1989 - 1997



9.1 Cubic Feet (7 boxes)

Scope and Content of Collection

Charles S. Olton created and received these records during his term as dean of Parsons School of Design, the art and design division of The New School.

Files are organized into six areas: General administration, Committee and meeting minutes, Departments and programs, Events, Individuals, and International projects. Within each series, files are arranged alphabetically. File titles were presumably assigned by Olton or his administrative staff.

General administration, the largest series, encompasses administrative functions of the Office of the Dean. Includes records documenting accreditation, admissions and recruitment, development and fund raising, facilities, finance, institutional policy, publicity, student services, and technology.

The Events series includes documentation of art and design exhibitions, fashion shows, and the centennial celebration of Parsons School of Design in 1996.

The Individuals series includes records concerning donors, visiting critics and lecturers, and fellow Parsons School of Design and New School administrators.

The International projects series documents the many study abroad and academic exchange programs Parsons School of Design developed with schools and institutions during Olton's administration.

Language of Materials

All materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Files with confidential student information are restricted for 120 years after the person's known or estimated birth. Files detailing faculty or other personnel salary, performance reviews, hiring information or grievances are restricted for 50 years from creation date of item (or last creation date in file). Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

Charles S. Olton succeeded David C. Levy as dean of Parsons School of Design in 1989. Prior to joining the school's administration, he served as dean of the faculty and vice president of academic affairs at Barnard College and held academic and administrative posts at the State University of New York, Buffalo and Union College in Schenectady. Olton earned an MA and a PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and has conducted extensive research on early American architecture, painting and music.

During his tenure at Parsons, Olton oversaw the expansion of the curriculum to include computer technology, developed new degree programs, including the master's in architecture, and increased scholarship and professional internship opportunities. He continued the geographic expansion of Parsons begun by David C. Levy by establishing two new affiliate schools in South Korea and Malaysia, the Samsung Art and Design Institute and the Center for Advanced Design respectively, and strengthened the Altos de Chavon (Dominican Republic) and Paris programs. The Olton administration also engaged in efforts to recruit international students for the school's New York City campus and initiated a program to increase ethnic diversity.

Olton's administration also managed the Parsons Centennial celebration in 1996, physical renovations and the creation of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Archives of Parsons School of Design (later renamed the New School Archives and Special Collections).

Olton resigned as dean of Parsons in 1997 to accept a position as president of the American Symphony Orchestra League. He was succeeded as Parsons's dean by H. Randolph Swearer.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 6 series: 1. General administration; 2. Committee and meeting minutes; 3. Departments and programs; 4. Events; 5. Individuals; 6. International projects. Arrangement within each series is alphabetical.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Records transferred from the Office of the Dean, Parsons School of Design, 2004.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds extensive records documenting the activities of Parsons administrators from the 1950s through the 2000s. Olton's immediate predecessor as dean, David C. Levy's records (PC.01.04.01) as well as Olton's colleague, senior administrator Lesley Cadman's records (PC.01.06.01) are available for research use.

Processing Information

These records formerly comprised part of a larger record group of Parsons School of Design deans' and presidents' office records. The New School Archives staff established discrete record groups for individual administrators in 2015.

Charles S. Olton records
Jillian Cuellar and Anne Kumer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • March 15, 2017: Jenny Swadosh supplied additional description.