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Corporate author Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director.
Title Thomas S. Buechner records, 1960-1971.
Found In Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director. Records, 1896-[ongoing]
Description 14.5 linear ft. plus
.25 linear ft. oversize materials plus
.25 linear ft. photographs
Arrangement Arranged alphabetically within fiscal years.
Location Call Number Vol./Copy Status Information
 Brooklyn Archives  DIR: TSB    AVAILABLE
Access restrictions Some folders may be restricted. See archivist for details.
Cite as Records of the Office of the Director, Thomas S. Buechner, 1960-1971, The Brooklyn Museum Archives.
Biographical/historical note Thomas Scharman Buechner was born in 1926 in New York City. He studied at a variety of institutions, including Princeton University, the Art Students League, the Ecole des Beaux Arts (Paris and Fontainebleu), and the Institut voor Pictologie. Prior to his appointment as Director of The Brooklyn Museum, he worked in the Display Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1949-50) and served as the first Director of the Corning Museum of Glass (1950-60).
Buechner was appointed Director of The Brooklyn Museum in April 1960 and began work in August of that year. Following his tenure at the Museum, Buechner returned to Corning as Vice-President (1971-73), President (1973-82), and Chairman (1982-85) of Steuben Glass.
At The Brooklyn Museum, Buechner's primary goal, as expressed in the 1960-62 Annual Report, was to bring the curatorial and public service departments into institutional unity with a common purpose of evolving a unique facilty for education in the visual arts. Toward this goal, he instituted several administrative changes, including founding a Design Department to unify the appearance of installations and publications. In 1968-69, he created new senior staff positions to oversee the major institutional divisions: Vice-Director for Collections (Bernard V. Bothmer), Vice-Director for Administration (David Saltonstall), and Vice-Director for Buildings (Robert Hayden).
Buechner's commitment to education and interpretation of the collections is evident in several new and expanded programs. The innovative Junior Membership program involved school children both as visitors and behind-the-scenes assistants. The Museum-on-Wheels brought objects and programs into the public schools. To open more of the collections to public view, a Study-Storage Gallery was designed for the American paintings collection, the Hall of the Americas created, and Costume Theatre and decorative arts planned. Collection didactics were presented in new orientation galleries and information wells and rails, and various departments experimented with taped (Acoustiguide) tours of the galleries. A handbook of the collections was published in 1967 as part of a drive to provide guides to each department. "Listening to Pictures" (1967-68) provided taped interviews with artists in conjunction with representative works. In 1967-68 the Museum participated in the first meeting of the Museum Computer Network, ushering in the early stages of a new era of information access.
The Museum began an intensive effort to reach out to diverse Brooklyn communities under Buechner. In 1968, the Community Gallery opened. Minorities were brought into the Museum through special exhibitions and programs such as "African Sculpture" (1970), the Black Art Seminar, "New Black Artists" (1969) and the Simpson Project, which brought African objects into public school classrooms. The Touch Gallery was installed to give the blind a chance to experience art. The U.S. Department of Education sponsored a seminar at the Museum on the Role of the Arts in Meeting the Social and Educational Needs of the Disadvantaged. The Art School expanded into crafts and looked into cooperative degree programs with accredited institutions. In 1970, the Museum was described as "a people's museum: friendly, informal, focussing on service to the community."
The curatorial departments continued an active program of acquisitions, special exhibitions, and new installations. One new curatorial department was formed, the Department of Middle Eastern Art, with Curator Charles Wilkinson's salary funded by the Kevorkian Foundation. The Sculpture Garden opened in 1965-66. Highlights of the exhibition schedule included "Jacob Lawrence" (1960); "Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period" (1961); exhibitions of three private collections: Ernest Erickson, Nelson Rockefeller, and Louis E. Stern (1961); "Triumph of Realism" (1967); "Some More Beginnings: Experiments in Art & Technology" (1968-69); and "African Sculpture" (1970). A new Museum booster organization, the Roebling Society, was founded in 1967; members were linked to curatorial staff in support of their collecting interests and began a program of annual donations of objects.
Fund-raising efforts remained a strong focus, with governmental programs growing in importance. The New York State Council on the Arts assumed a strong role, funding internships, an architectural coordinator's position, cataloging projects, and circulating exhibitions such as the "Techniques" shows organized by Museum staff. City funding cuts threatened closure of the Museum in 1968-69, but intensive lobbying efforts by staff and community resulted in budget restoration. The Community Committee continued to raise funds for the Museum; a new program provided guided Study Tours to a variety of sites around the world.
Under Buechner, the reconstruction of the building moved ahead. Under Stage III, the parking lot was constructed, plans moved ahead toward air conditioning the entire building, and several galleries were reinstalled. The Stage IV design contract was awarded to Brown, Lawford & Forbes in 1968.
Buechner's professional activities included serving on the Council of the American Association of Museums and as Vice-President and committee chair of the Association of Art Museum Directors. He was also a consultant in the NYSCA Technical Assistance Program, and served on the board or as an advisor to the New York Cultural Showcase Foundation, the Victorian Society in America, the South Street Museum, the DeYoung Museum/California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and Education System for the 70s (ES70).
Summary The Thomas S. Buechner records document all activities of the Museum and include correspondence with donors, lenders, and vendors, Board of Trustees and Governing Committee members, especially Robert E. Blum and Ernest Erickson; New York City agencies; and staff of other museums and cultural institutions. Curatorial records are found under the department name, with additional material on the collections filed under "objects" or "loans." Exhibition files continue to reflect the more ceremonial fundtions of the Director's Office, in planning openings and handling publicity.
Correspondence about building plans with the architectural firm of Brown, Lawford & Forbes, and correspondence with City agencies and foundations continue to be quite heavy.
Related collections Records of the Office of the Director, Wills & Estates (1896-ongoing), contains material from Buechner's administration concerning bequests, gifts, legal affairs, and grants.
Records of the Office of the Director, Reports (1935-71), contains monthly reports from the departments. The Director's reports to the Trustees no longer appear in this series.
Indexes Unpublished finding aid available in repository.
Folder-level descriptions available on-line in repository.
Contemporaneous card index available in repository.
Source of acquisition Records of the Office of the Director internal transfer
15 linear ft.
Note The Thomas S. Buechner records form one of 12 series in the Records of the Office of the Director, the Brooklyn Museum.
LC subject Blum, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1899-1999.
Bothmer, Bernard V., 1912-1993.
Buechner, Thomas S.
Erickson, Ernest, 1893-1983.
Hayden, Robert.
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Saltonstall, David.
Stern, Louis E., 1886-1962.
Wilkinson, Charles Kyrle, 1897-1986.
American Association of Museums.
Association of Art Museum Directors.
Brown, Lawford and Forbes (Firm)
Corning Museum of Glass.
Kevorkian Foundation.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
Museum Computer Network.
New York State Council on the Arts.
Steuben Glass (Firm)
Art museums -- Educational aspects.
Art schools -- New York (State) -- New York.
Art -- Exhibitions.
Traveling exhibitions.
Museum architecture.
Museum finance.
Museums -- New York (State) -- New York.
Brooklyn Museum.
Brooklyn Museum. Art School.
Brooklyn Museum. Community Gallery.
Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director.
Brooklyn Museum. Roebling Society.
Other subject Art schools -- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Museums -- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Genre/Form Art museum directors.
WorldCat no. 122421058

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