UA 6.9.2




6.0 linear feet (6 records center boxes) photographs, electronic records, moving image materials


Norman Gambill was a scholar in art history and film studies, he was head of the Visual Arts Department for 26 years retiring in 2010. This collections in composed of his while he was department head of Visual Arts at SDSU from 1984 to 2010. Also included are unpublished manuscripts, Ph.D. thesis, and personal legal documents.

Historical Note

Norman Paul Gambill was born April 3, 1941 in Dade City, FL, to George Washington Gambill IV and Dorcas (Darling) Gambill. He grew up in Florida and Georgia.

He was a scholar in art history and film studies with degrees from Emory University, the University of Iowa and Syracuse University. His also graduated from Emory at Oxford prep school in Atlanta. He was an art history professor at the University of Illinois and South Dakota State University where he headed the Visual Arts Department for 26 years, retiring in 2010.

During his 48-year career, he taught thousands of undergraduate students to love art and understand its importance in world history. He also worked with graduate students on courses in Asian art, film art and design, women artists, and international films.

He was an ardent fan of Oscar Wilde and Orson Welles. His lectures and writings about Welles’s groundbreaking film “Citizen Kane” inspired many to take up film studies. His work as a scholar took him around the country giving lectures and around the world sharing his expertise with academics, particularly those who attended the Oxford Roundtable in 2010.

He published articles in scholarly journals and respected film magazines. His work on 1930s films and their importance in the cultural history of the United States is being published in his book, “Ritz and American Mediocrity.” He was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi, the national honor society for those with notable academic accomplishments, in 2006.

His innovative fund-raising events raised money for his department and the Brookings community. With the help of the Visual Arts Group of local volunteers, he founded the annual Evening for the Arts dinner and art auction. The yearly Chocolate Auction held on or around Valentine’s Day raised funds by with an auction of chocolate desserts donated by restaurants and local bakers. Proceeds provided scholarships for art students.

He also co-founded the annual DVAGI, Design and Visual Arts Group Inc., fundraiser in collaboration with the SDSU departments of Visual Arts, Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, and Horticulture, Forestry and Landscape Design. Money from an auction of designers’ services raised money for students to travel to art and design events across the country.

His reputation for lavish parties carried over to his private life where he served abundant food and wine to friends from Brookings and across the country in his 19th Century house, a showplace for his extensive art collection.

He is survived by his brother Stephen, Palmetto FL; his sister, Janine Dover, Camilla, GA.; two nieces and a nephew. Hundreds of friends also survive and will miss his quick wit and impeccable sense of style.

Dr. Norman P. Gambill, died from heart failure on July 12, 2016, at the Neighborhoods at Brookview in Brookings.

Content Notes

Series 1. Administrative files.

Includes general correspondence, memos, Norman Gambill's calendars and appointment books and documents on department and course staffing, enrollment, and general planning. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 2. Curriculum.

Includes Institutional Program Reviews, general education, liberal studies, and visual arts core review, and various curricular issues and concerns. This subseries focuses on curriculum work at a campus level, through visual arts curriculum work discussed at campus-level meetings. For course-level curriculum planning and staffing, see the General Administrative subseries.

Series 3. Events and conferences.

Includes records on department art shows and exhibitions, the TechSigns conference, Design and Visual Arts Group, Inc. (DVAGI) events, and other departmental activities. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 4. Facilities.

Includes files on the Fine Arts Auditorium (not called the Performing Arts Center), the Visual Arts Department site including the Industrial Arts building and Grove Hall, facility studies, planning and remodeling, and facility maintenance and health concerns. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 5. Teaching (Gambill's personal files).

Includes course outlines, teaching research, course study guide packets, and VHS video of three course lectures. Some teaching materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 6. Grants and fundraising.

Includes records on grant applications, awarded grants, and fundraising for programs and publications. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 7. Meeting files.

Includes meeting agenda, minutes, and corresponding documents related to Visual Arts Department faculty meetings, Deans and Department Heads meetings, Academic Senate, and various other campus committees. Memoirs, correspondence, reports, and notes are included within these files and were likely discussed and/or distributed during the meetings. The arrived in disarray with only some bearing folder titles. Additionally, the term "Faculty Meetings" was broadly used and may refer to meetings beyond only Visual Arts Department meetings. For example, "Dean's and Departments Heads" meeting agendas may be found in "Faculty Meetings" folders, possibly for facilitating announcements at department faculty meetings. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 8. Personal and professional research and activities.

Includes Gambill's research and correspondence regarding his writings, files regarding membership and participation in local organizations, and professional recognition and thank-you correspondence. Also included is some personal correspondence, recognition material, a resume, and photographs. Some materials pre-date Gambill's arrival at South Dakota State University.

Series 9. Manuscripts.

Composed of unpublished manuscripts and Gambill’s Ph.D. thesis. Included are several revisions of “Ritz and American Mediocrity,” and “Designing Hollywood: Productions of Harry Horner, 1940-1980,” and “Citizen Kane: An Art Historical Analysis,” which was Gambills Ph.D. thesis from Syracuse University.

SDSU Archives and Special Collections

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


Copyright restrictions apply in different ways to different materials. Many of the documents and other historical materials in the Archives are in the public domain and may be reproduced and used in any way. There are other materials in the Archive carrying a copyright interest and must be used according to the provisions of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. The Archive issues a warning concerning copyright restrictions to every researcher who requests copies of documents. Although the copyright law is under constant redefinition in the courts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the researcher to properly use copyrighted material.