Friday, August 5, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1930-47

With another warm week under our collective belts and a tiring week in the office, I figured I'd unwind by returning to the stack of Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletins occupying a corner of my living room.

If you missed the last post, covering 1920 to 29 you might want to peak in, or if you have no idea what I'm rambling about you might be interested in the first installment.

Today's post covers two decades -- and a tumultuous period in American history: The end of the Great Depression and the beginning and end of World War II. Some scholars -- and at least one high school economics teacher -- link the two events, and logically it makes sense, but that's neither here nor there. The collection of discarded Bulletins was, sadly, rather light on the '30s, hence this post's two-decade span.

February 1934. Twenty First Year. Number 2, Part One. Prohibition ended with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment by the Twenty-first Amendment by a majority of states just two months prior to this issue -- incidentally Ohio was one of the three states that pushed the amendment to ratification on December 5, 1933. At the museum, a schedule of events shows Saturday "Radio Talks" on WHK at 5:45 PM. WHK, Ohio's oldest radio station, and the 15th oldest in the country still broadcasting, can be found today at AM 1420, though in the early 30s as a CBS affiliate you would have tuned to 1390 KHz.

The schedule of events also includes frequent Organ Music programs and discussions in the auditorium.

John Long Severance is the President of the Board (the hall that bears his name and still serves as the home of the Cleveland Orchestra opened three years prior); and William Mathewson Milliken had also begun his Directorship of the museum at the beginning of the decade -- both will leave lasting imprints on the museum, and as I learned this afternoon, Mr. Milliken also headed the Public Works of Art Project for Region 9 of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The Museum's Education staff totals nine. The library staff of seven includes a Miss Thwing -- and I have to wonder about her relationship to the Thwing Center that now stands just a few hundred feet from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Admission is still just $0.25.

December 1935. Twenty Second Year. Number Ten. The Autumn flower show this year paired flowers in paintings and was describes as "one of the most beautiful exhibits ever held in the museum" and included five paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe--this being barely 20 years after her work first gained widespread acclaim. Among those thanked for their participation, Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Ginn -- Mr. Ginn, like Mr. Severance, had a close association with the Cleveland Orchestra, this time memorialized in the elegant Ginn Suite at Severance Hall.

The Bulletin offers five upcoming concerts in the "Cleveland Concert Course," sponsored by but not taking place at the Museum. For information, call CHerry 5805 (Today that number would be 241-5805*, but Google doesn't turn up any current results). Radio programs are listed for WTAM and WGAR including the Art Museum Drama. (WTAM is still around, and the WGAR call letters survive in Cleveland as WGAR-FM, but WGAR-AM is now WNKR). Total membership stands at 3,554 -- rather shocking as in October 1929 membership was reported as 6,365, and in 1922 the Board had hoped for membership of 10,000 by the end of the year.

March 1943. Thirtieth Year. Number Three. As if the membership numbers from 1935 weren't disappointing enough, the reported number is now just 3,113. For the first time since the building opened, hours and admission prices have changed: 9AM to 5PM except: Closed Mondays, Wednesdays until 10PM, Sundays 1PM to 6PM, and Friday Evenings 7PM to 10PM during Lecture Season. The Museum is closed July 4, Thanksgiving, and December 25. (Today the Museum is still closed Mondays, otherwise open daily 10AM to 5PM except until 9PM Wednesdays and Fridays). Then as now, admission is free at all times.

June, September, November, 1943; and March 1947 (Thirtieth Year, Number Six, Seven, Nine and Thirty-Fourth Year, Number Three, respectively) don't offer anything particularly noteworthy, with a relatively stable Museum organization and in-depth analyses on particular artworks. In September, Membership is reported as 3,008.

June 1947. Thirty-Fourth Year. Number Six. Part One. Miss Neil G. Sill, librarian of the Museum since February 1, 1920, retired as of April 15, 1947. The event is reported in the Bulletin "Miss Sill several years ago asked to be relieved of her responsibilities, but was generously willing to remain until after the war crisis. She submitted her resignation on December 1, 1946 to take effect at such time as the Trustees should decide, but no later than the spring." -- I find it hard to imagine, in the 21st Century someone staying in a job "several years" longer than they would otherwise desire.

President Milliken writes that "The strain of carrying the Library through the war years has made it seem imperative that, for a time at least, she have a period of rest and relief from responsibility. Miss Sill, during the years she has been in charge of the Library has built it up so that it is one of the outstanding special libraries in the country. Her ability in building up important representation in the various sections of the Library under her control and her wisdom in the selection and purchase of books have been outstanding contributions to the Museum's growth".

And I wonder if there are any modern markers of Ms. Sill's impact on the Museum's Ingalls Library during her 27-year reign early in the dawn of the museum?

And since I've wandered through these few issues for far longer than I originally set out to do, I suppose I shall save the rest of the last three years of the decade for the next post.


*- For completely tangential trivia, the 216-241 Exchange is one of several dozen served from the Ohio Bell Building on Huron Avenue, is a great example of Modern American Perpendicular Gothic Architecture and is frequently cited as the inspiration for the Daily Planet Building in Superman.

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