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Robert L. Penn papers

Identifier: MS-122

Content Description

The Robert Lee Penn Papers contain materials which describe the life and work of the artist Robert Penn. The collection is mostly copies.

The Printed Materials contain largely newspaper and periodical articles providing biographical information on Robert Penn as well as information concerning his art. Additional periodicals feature Penn’s work on their covers or in their pages. In addition, there are exhibition announcements, exhibition programs, book excerpts, calendars featuring Penn’s work, and posters.

The Typescripts contain biographical information and information concerning Robert Penn’s passing.

The Manuscripts contain poems written by Robert Penn.

The Correspondence is divided into two sub-series: Incoming and Other. The incoming series contains letters from institutions thanking Penn for his contribution to publications and organizations. The other series contains a letter from Alta dela Cruz Penn to Rick Geyerman, who was writing an article on Robert Penn.

The Ephemera include photocopies of note cards with Penn’s work and an unidentified wood cut.

The Miscellaneous materials contain Penn’s business cards and notes for a media relations file.

The Media portion of the collection contains CD’s and DVD’s of interviews with Robert Penn, the dedication of a Robert Penn mural, and a digital copy of a photograph of Robert Penn.

Many of the Photographs show Penn with his work or Penn working with students at the Oscar Howe Institute. Photographs of Penn with the students are restricted because of FERPA.


  • Creation: 1967 - 2001
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1989 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains some restricted material. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting.

Some of the photographs are restricted due to FERPA.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Copyright for the works of art (posters, cover art, calendars, poetry, etc.) is held by the Penn family. Patrons must contact Robert Quanah Penn, the executor of the Penn estate, for written permission.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Penn was born on May 3, 1946 in Omaha, Nebraska to Arthur Penn and Cornelia Steed-Penn. His father was an enrolled member of the Omaha tribe. His mother was an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Penn attended high school at St. Francis Mission on South Dakota's Rosebud Reservation. In 1972, he earned his BFA at the University of South Dakota.

While at USD, Penn worked as an art instructor and illustrator. In 1986, he pursued his painting career full-time. Penn lived and worked in Vermillion, South Dakota until his death in 1999.

Penn was a protégé of the late Oscar Howe.

(Biographical note used with permission from the Akta Lakota Musuem Cultural Center.)


1.5 linear feet (4 document boxes)

Language of Materials



The Robert Lee Penn Papers contain materials which describe the life and work of the artist Robert Penn. The collection is mostly copies.


The collection is divided into eight series.: Printed Materials, Typescripts, Manuscripts, Correspondence, Ephemera, Miscellaneous, Media, and Photographs.

Robert L. Penn papers
Andrea M. Peterson, updated in May 2007 by Gayla Koerting, and updated in 2010-2020 by Doris Peterson.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository