Category Archives: BMA Director

Celebrating the BMA’s Monuments Men

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Charles Parkhurst in the BMA Education Department, October 1965. People Photograph Collection, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art. PCP.5.36.1

Tracy Lewis, BMA Archives Intern

When I first sat down with the BMA Archives’ People Photograph Collection, I felt like a stranger lost in a crowd. As a Library and Archives intern on a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), I have been rearranging and processing photographs, negatives, and slides of people who have are in some way connected to the Museum, whether they be staff, members of the Board of Trustees, speakers, or visitors to the galleries. Over the past seven months, I have gotten to know these people in the crowd. I even know some of their birthdays, such as former Museum Director Charles Parkhurst, who was born on January 23, 1913. He and former Associate Director Denys P. Myers were both Monuments Men.

Men and women who have served in the US Armed Forces have not only served their country, but also the world’s art. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA) of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Divisions of the Allied Armies. Their story made popular by the 2014 film starring Matt Damon and George Clooney, the Monuments Men were 345 volunteer museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, educators, and other experts from 14 nations. The MFAA selected them to retrieve, protect, and return cultural artifacts that had been looted by Nazi forces during World War II.

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Denys Peter Myers, June 1961. People Photographs Collection, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art. PCP.2.68.1

An architectural historian and Episcopalian deacon who worked at the Museum from 1959 until 1965, Denys P. Myers helped Lt. John Skilton to salvage the Trepolo ceiling in the Residenz Palace in Würzberg, Germany. Allied bombing in 1945 had destroyed part of the ceiling of the palace and left Trepolo’s painting Olympus and the Four Continents exposed to the elements. Skilton and his crew scoured the region for lumber and rebuilt the ceiling. Restoration of the palace wasn’t completed until 1990.

Parkhurst, Director of the BMA from 1962 until 1970, served as a Navy gunnery officer in the Mediterranean prior to his appointment as deputy chief of the MFAA section of the US Military Government in Germany around the end of the war. France named Parkhurst a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in 1948 for his contribution to the reclamation of the art stolen by the National Socialists. On November 7, 1945, Parkhurst and 24 other military officers signed the Wiesbaden Manifesto in protest to a US government directive that ordered the Monuments Men to ship 202 German-owned paintings held at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point to the National Gallery of Art. In a 1982 interview, Parkhurst said he and his fellow officers likened the federal government’s demand to the very looting that instigated their mission.

Parkhurst wholeheartedly believed in the responsibility of a museum to educate its visitors. In his first annual report to the Board of Trustees, excerpts of which were published in The Baltimore Museum of Art News in 1964, the Director listed several objectives for the museum. One of those objectives, he said should be “to broaden and to enrich the visitor’s knowledge of the world, particularly of his own cultural heritage; but also to shed light upon cultures other than his own which otherwise he might not recognize, let alone understand.”  Without his and Myers’ efforts to rescue European art from the plundering of the Nazis, these cultural treasures might not exist for museum visitors worldwide to learn about today. The experiences that Parkhurst, Myers, and the many other individuals who are pictured in the People Photograph Collection have brought to the Museum are treasures in themselves that add a dynamic dimension to the art displayed in the BMA’s galleries. Preservation of the photographs and other records in the BMA Archives make their stories available so that others may learn about and understand their legacy to the Museum.

The BMA Looks Forward

2015 Front StepsDirector Doreen Bolger’s retirement at the end of June has prompted the Board of Trustees to begin the search for a new director to lead the BMA as it enters its second century. A committee has been formed to conduct an international search and they are also interested in harnessing ideas from everyone to help them find the next leader for our beloved institution.

BMA Trustee Michael Rosenbaum was named chairman of the nine-member search committee, which is comprised of Trustees with a broad range of public and private sector experience. The other committee members are Clair Zamoiski Segal; former Board Chairs Suzanne F. Cohen, Stiles Tuttle Colwill, and Margot W.M. Heller; and Trustees William Backstrom, Alexander C. Baer, Patricia H. Joseph, and James D. Thornton.

The committee has already had its first meeting and plans to engage an international search firm to ensure candidates are considered from a diverse array of backgrounds, professional experience, and geography. They also want to hear from individuals and groups who are currently or in the past have been involved with the BMA, as well as others who may never even have considered how their interests and concerns connect with those of an art museum.

As of now, they are not yet soliciting thoughts about specific director candidates or qualifications for the new director. Instead, they would be most grateful for your thoughts about the following questions:

  • What do you want to see from the BMA in the coming years?
  • What would you like to see the BMA become in the next decade?

Women in the arts = leaders in business

Julia Marciari-Alexander, Rebecca Hoffberger, Doreen Bolger and Marin Alsop: presenters of the 2014 Charles J. Busta III Lecture in Business, April 22, 2014 at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Julia Marciari-Alexander, Rebecca Hoffberger, Doreen Bolger and Marin Alsop: presenters of the 2014 Charles J. Busta III Lecture in Business, April 22, 2014 at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

By Nancy Proctor

I tweeted this equation at the start of the 2014 Charles J. Busta III Lecture in Business, “The Arts Transforming Communities,” delivered on April 22, 2014 by Marin Alsop, Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony OrchestraDoreen Bolger, Director of the Baltimore Museum of ArtRebecca Hoffberger, Director of the American Visionary Art Museum; and Julia Marciari-Alexander, Executive Director of the Walters Art Museum. What followed was an inspiring series of very personal stories from some of the most prominent leaders in the local and national cultural scenes. I found myself almost envying the young women of Notre Dame of Maryland University who were able to hear from such shining role models so early in life. Without trailblazers and precedents, it is a greater uphill struggle for women to assume leadership roles, even in arts organizations, which are overwhelmingly staffed by women but count few female directors as this ArtsFWD post by Eleanor Whitney noted. Indeed, diversity in all its forms is lacking throughout arts organizations and their audiences as in business in general; Nina Simon wrote and gathered links to other insightful posts and events on the topic this last year, and the conversation is sure to continue.

This year’s Busta Lecture event was an important step along the road to a better place for the arts and their audiences, and a proud night for Baltimore to see its own transformation in the stories of these innovative leaders. Fortunately, the gracious hosts at NDMU posted all their talks online so you can check them out yourself. We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions!