Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1915-1929

I'm a sucker for ephemeral institutional history: Those reports, policy manuals, and various other internal documents that are written at one time and never intended to survive the ages: It is the disposable that is never disposed. I find it interesting to thumb through these documents (or Page Dn through PDFs) and see what has and hasn't changed. In the paper world, it's interesting to feel the quality of the paper and look at the typesetting in days before computers and "Desktop Publishing" was a glint on the horizon, and to think of who has browsed those pages in the decades past.

My girlfriend, aware of this trait, noticed that a collection of assorted issues of "The Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art" (which was published from 1914 to 1994, to be replaced by the Member's Magazine, which is still published) was to be discarded and swept them up for me. Arriving home tonight, after dutifully slipping in some needed violin practice, I couldn't help but to sort them chronologically, and thumb through a the pages and think about what else was happening in the world, what names are encountered, and how times have changed.

Before I really realized what I had done, I had made it through all of the issues I have through 1929. Without further ado, some of my observations.

November 1915. Second Year. Number Three. The earliest issue in this cache takes us back to 1915. The Cleveland Orchestra won't exist for another three years--Severance Hall is about 15 years away. World War I is raging overseas, but it will be another 17 months before the United States joins the fray. It had been hoped that the Museum's opening and inaugural exhibition could be announced, but construction delays mean that installation work cannot begin before January of 1916. (The Museum will eventually open June 7th, 1916)

Dudley P. Allen bequests $150,000 to be held in trust for the Museum with the interest income to be paid "For 100 years and for as long thereafter as the institution shall effectively and worthily carry out the purposes of its organization". The trust is held by Cleveland Trust Company, through mergers and acquisitions, now known as KeyBank: The trust still exists, and fewer than four years remain of that original 100 year term. It would be difficult to argue that hte museum is not effectively and worthily carrying out its purposes.

Though the Museum's physical presence hasn't opened, Mrs. Emily S. Gibson is actively stirring interest in educational programs through visits to Cleveland libraries, and reports that the Cleveland Public Schools superintendent is eager to incorporate the museum in educational programs after it opens.

The Membership for the not-yet-opened museum totals 530, the names occupy scarcely more space than one full 8-1/2" by 11" sheet and include such names as Howard M. Hanna (M.A. Hanna company a major specialty chemical company), William R. Hopkins (first, and only, Cleveland City Manager, and a major proponent of the airport that now bears his name--Cleveland Hopkins International Airport), F.E. Drury and Charles S. Brooks, both of whom have strong ties to the Cleveland Play House as well, also appear. Rounding out the list of names that jumped off the page, members of the Blossom Family-- 45 years later, give or take, the Blossom Music Center will be named for one if their members.

April 1920. Seventh Year. Number 4. World War I has ended; the depression is yet to come and "An Appeal For New Members" appears in The Bulletin "For the past two years the Museum has made no active campaign for membership, believing the war needs of the country made such an appeal unpatriotic". The appeal goes on to report that previously two trusts had entirely funded the museum's operations, but due to growth of the museum and increased costs, those funds now fall far short.

The museum thanks Mrs. Henry A. Everett for the use of her Steinway piano "during her absence" and Harry J. Wamelink for "frequently" lending a Mason and Hamlin piano.

Membership now totals 1,983; names are not published. The museum is open 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday except until 10pm on Wednesdays and 1pm-10pm on Sundays. Admission is free Sundays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and all public holidays -- $0.25 otherwise. In the Lunch Room, table d'hote lunch is $0.60, afternoon tea is $0.40, and if you're attending a lecture, make a reservation before 3pm for a $1.00 dinner.

I had originally planned on covering the rest of the 1920s... but this post seems long enough. Perhaps there will be a Part II: Are you interested?


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