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Corporate author Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director.
Title Laurence Page Roberts records, 1938-43.
Found In Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director. Records, 1896-[ongoing]
Description 7.5 linear ft. plus
.25 linear ft. oversize materials plus
.25 linear ft. photos
Arrangement Arranged alphabetically within fiscal years.
Location Call Number Vol./Copy Status Information
 Brooklyn Archives  DIR: LPR    AVAILABLE
Access restrictions Some folders may be restricted. Consult archivist for details.
Biographical/historical note Laurance P. Roberts was born in Bala, Pennsylvania in 1907. He received a B.A. degree from Princeton in 1929 and attended graduate courses at Princeton, New York University, and Columbia University. In 1930, he was hired by the Pennsylvania Museum of Art, serving as researcher, assistant in the Chinese Department, and Assistant Curator. In 1932-33, he travelled and studied in Japan and China, returning to the museum at the end of 1933.
Brooklyn Museum Director Philip N. Youtz, with whom Roberts had worked at the 69th Street Branch of the Pennsylvania Museum, offered him the position of Assistant Curator of Chinese Art in Fall 1934. Roberts was soon promoted to full Curator. During Youtz's absences from the Museum, he served as Acting Director and was appointed to that post once again when Youtz resigned in April 1938. The following January, Roberts was named Director, retaining his curatorial post as well.
Although Roberts officially held the title of Director until his resignation in April 1946, his tenure at the Museum was interrupted by a lengthy military leave from January 1943 through April 1946. During this period, Isabel Spaulding Roberts, Laurance Roberts' wife and a former member of the Education Division staff, assumed the directorship, first as Acting Director/Curator in Chief and then as full Director. Museum superintendent Albert N. Henricksen served concurrently as Acting Director during the first ten months of 1943 and then was appointed Assistant Director.
Upon leaving the Museum, Roberts served as Director of the American Academy in Rome and was later involved in the founding of the New York State Council on the Arts in 1960-61.
Roberts' curatorial orientation is clear in the focus of his administration. His predecessor, Youtz, had reorganized, renovated, and reinstalled the entire Museum and its collections. Roberts wrote that the role of the Museum was to bring the collection to life and provide the public with activities related to the collection. Two important policy changes were articulated during his administration: purchase funds were to be concentrated in areas in which the collections were already strong; and major, longer-running exhibitions were to be mounted. The latter aim was fulfilled by exhibitions curated by John I.H. Baur, Herbert Spinden, and Una Johnson; scholarly catalogs were also produced in conjunction with these shows.
While the organizational chart remained relatively stable during this period, some significant changes did occur. The Industrial Division, already intimated, was formally established in 1940-41 under the leadership of Michelle Murphy. The Art School was transferred from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences to the Museum in 1941. With the resignation of Carl O. Schniewind in March 1940, the Department of Prints and Drawings and the Art Reference Library were separated. Finally, W.P.A. projects were gradually curtailed and then ended in 1941.
A series of Folk Festivals were produced by the Education Division, reflecting the Museum's interest in drawing in new ethnic groups and dramatizing their connections to the collections. This community activism also shows in Roberts' commitment to encouraging and exhibiting local artists.
World War II affected the Museum in several ways, from practical matters such as safeguarding the collection and filling in for staff in the armed services, to providing education and recreation for the public at home. The exhibition schedule reflects the latter, with many exhibitions and programs on war and international themes after 1941. Interest in Latin America is particularly evident, with extensive participation in the work of Nelson Rockefeller and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, under whose auspices the Museum produced and circulated travelling exhibitions.
Under Roberts' administration, the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly was suspended in 1939 and was succeeded by the Brooklyn Museum Bulleting. A scholarly periodical, the Brooklyn Museum Journal, began publication in 1942.
Summary The Roberts records document all activities of the Museum and include correspondence with donors, lenders, and vendors; Board of Trustees and Governing Committee members, especially Edward C. BLum, Walter H. Crittenden, James G. McDonald, Caroline A.L. Pratt, Sidney W. Davidson, and Adrian Van Sinderen; New York City agencies; and staff of other museums and cultural institutions. Reflecting Roberts' interest in curatorial matters, exhibition files and files documenting the Museum's relations with other museums are more numerous and weighty than in the previous administration. Files on the travelling exhibitions created for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs and the exhibition "America South of U.S." are of particular importance.
The effects of the pre-war period and the initial years of World War II are evident in files on defense measures, including the temporary evacuation of works of art, relations with agencies such as the Red Cross, and the creation of new or installation of loan exhibitions on civil defense, home-front topics, and the cultures of areas involved in the war.
During Roberts' administration, the Inter-Museum Council (later the Museums Council of New York City) was founded; although he was not directly involved, the files contain considerable documentation of the process. This series also documents Roberts' service on the advisory board of another new organization, the American Art Research Council (1941-43), and on various advisory committees for the New York World's Fair.
Cite as Records of the Office of the Director, Laurance Page Roberts, 1938-43, The Brooklyn Museum Archives.
Related collections Records of the Office of the Director, Wills & Estates (1896-ongoing), contains material from Roberts' administration concerning bequests, gifts, legal affairs, and grants.
Records of the Office of the Director, Reports (1935-71), contains monthly reports to the Institute which incorporate the Director's and departmental reports.
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, Laurance Page Roberts storage internal transfer
Note The Laurance Page Roberts records form one of 12 series in the Records of the Office of the Director, The Brooklyn Museum.
LC subject Art museums -- Educational aspects.
Art schools -- New York (State) -- New York.
Artists and museums.
Artists -- New York (State) -- New York.
Federal aid to museums.
Museums -- New York (State) -- New York.
New Deal, 1933-1939.
World War, 1939-1945 -- War work.
Baur, John I. H. (John Ireland Howe), 1909-1987.
Blum, Edward C. (Edward Charles), 1863-1946.
Crittenden, Walter H. (Walter Hayden), 1859-1947.
Davidson, Sidney Wetmore, 1894-1979.
Johnson, Una E.
McDonald, James G. (James Grover), 1886-1964.
Murphy, Michelle, 1907-1954.
Pratt, Caroline A.L. (Caroline Ames Ladd), -1946.
Roberts, Laurance P.
Roberts, Isabel Spaulding, 1911-
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Schniewind, Carl O. (Carl Oscar), 1900-1957.
Spinden, Herbert Joseph, 1879-1967.
Van Sinderen, Adrian, 1887-1963.
Youtz, Philip Newell, 1895-1972.
American Art Research Council.
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Art School.
Museums Council of New York City.
New York (N.Y.). Department of Parks.
New York World's Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.)
Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA)
Pennsylvania Museum of Art.
United States. Work Projects Administration.
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.
Brooklyn Museum.
Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director.
Other subject Art schools -- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Artists -- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Museums -- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Genre/Form Art museum directors.
WorldCat no. 122575178

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