Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 267
Creators:
Cooper-Hewitt Museum
Dates:
1881, 1895-1976
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
56 cu. ft. (56 record storage boxes) (1 oversize folder)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records document the administration of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum from its establishment until its reopening in 1976 in the Carnegie Mansion. Although there is some material concerning the activities of Eleanor Garnier Hewitt and Sarah Cooper Hewitt, the majority of the records deal with the management of the Museum following Sarah Cooper Hewitt's death in 1930. Records of Mary S. M. Gibson, curator, 1904-1945; Calvin S. Hathaway, curator, 1946-1951, and director, 1951-1963; H. Christian Rohlfing, acting administrator, 1963-1968; Richard P. Wunder, director, 1968-1969; and Lisa Taylor, director, 1969- , are included.
The records include correspondence, memoranda, reports, publications, notes, photographs, and forms concerning the administrative operation of the Museum, including financial, personnel, buildings and equipment, and fund-raising activities; the acquisition, care, and use of the Museum's collections; exhibits, programs, and activities sponsored by the Museum; research activities of the staff and outside researchers; and Museum publications. Correspondents include staff of the parent organizations, the Cooper Union and the Smithsonian Institution; museums; art historians; donors; contributors; and the general public. A small amount of material documents the activities and history of the Cooper and Hewitt families, and of the Cooper Union. Some materials date to when the Museum was part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design was established in 1896 as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. Its parent organization, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, was founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper as a free school for the working classes of New York City. In his original plans for Cooper Union, Peter Cooper made provisions for a museum, but these plans were not immediately carried out.
In 1895, Peter Cooper's granddaughters, Eleanor Garnier Hewitt, Sarah Cooper Hewitt, and Amy Hewitt Green, asked the trustees of the Cooper Union for room in which to install a Museum for Arts of Decoration, modeled after the Musee des Arts Decoratifs of Paris. The purpose of the museum was to provide the art students of Cooper Union, students of design, and working designers with study collections of the decorative arts. The trustees assigned the fourth floor of the Cooper Union's Foundation Building to the sisters, and the Museum was opened to the public in 1897.
Until the death of Sarah Cooper Hewitt, the management of the Museum was essentially in the hands of the Hewitt sisters as directors. Following Sarah's death in 1930, the trustees of the Cooper Union appointed a board of four directors, with Constance P. Hare as chairman, to administer the Museum. When Edwin S. Burdell became director of the Cooper Union in 1938, the Museum was made part of his administrative responsibility, the Board of Directors was abolished, and an Advisory Council on the Museum, responsible for matters relating to the Museum's collections, was set up. Curators and custodians of the Museum included Mary A. Peoli, 1898-1904; Mary S. M. Gibson, 1904-1945; and Calvin S. Hathaway, 1946-1963 (curator, 1946-1951, and director, 1951-1963).
In 1963, the Cooper Union began consideration of plans to discontinue the Museum because of the financial demands of the other divisions of the Union and the absence of a close relationship between the programs of the Museum and the Art School. The announcement of the plans led to a considerable public outcry, and a Committee to Save the Cooper Union Museum, headed by Henry F. duPont, was established. Negotiations among the Committee, the Cooper Union, and the Smithsonian Institution led to the Museum's transfer to the Smithsonian on July 1, 1968. The Museum was renamed the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design and in 1969 acquired its present name. In 1970, the Museum moved into its present home, the Carnegie Mansion, which was renovated and reopened to the public in 1976. Heads of the Museum since 1963 have been H. Christian Rohlfing, acting administrator, 1963-1968; Richard P. Wunder, director 1968-1969; and Lisa Taylor, director, 1969- .

Administration
Oversize
This collection contains oversize material.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Smithsonian Institution Archives

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 267, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Hewitt, Eleanor Garnier Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cooper-Hewitt, Sarah, 1859-1930 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gibson, Mary S. M. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hathaway, Calvin S. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rohlfing, H. Christian Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wunder, Richard P. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Taylor, Lisa, 1933-1991 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carnegie Mansion (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art museums Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Decorative arts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Administration Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum publications Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Collection management Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum exhibits Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Acquisitions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Employees Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum finance Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu