CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Evolving House Museum: Art Collectors and Their Residences, Then and Now

Online event: 18 June - 19 June 2021

The Society for the History of Collecting organizes a two-day online conference about house museums on 18 and 19 June, 2021 (11 am –2 pm EDT/ 4–7 pm BST). The event is organized and chaired by Margaret Iacono and Esmée Quodbach. The program includes several lectures about important collections of Dutch and Flemish art, such as the collection of Charles and Anna Taft in Cincinnati and that of John & Mable Ringling in Sarasota.

The Evolving House Museum: Art Collectors and Their Residences, Then and Now

Following the successful session held in February at the College Art Association, the Society is delighted to hold an online conference over two days to explore this exciting topic further. House museums are founded for a variety of reasons, from preserving architecturally significant structures to safeguarding the former homes of historically or culturally noteworthy men and women and their legacies. In other cases esteemed art collectors, such as Henry Clay Frick or Albert C. Barnes, established museums in their former residences to house their collections in perpetuity rather than donating them to preexisting institutions. While many examples like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum continue to thrive, other lesser-known house museums do not attract enough support to remain operational. House museums, it seems, must evolve in order to remain relevant and to continue to attract visitors.

Pieter Christoffel Wonder (1777–1852), Patrons and Lovers of Art, ca. 1826–30, private collection.
Photo by Sailko (CC SA 3.0)

This conference will explore a variety of themes relating to art collectors as founders of house museums. The twelve papers will discuss numerous house museums, created over more than two centuries and founded across the globe. Some of the important issues to be considered include: What motivates collectors to establish private house museums instead of donating their collections to preexisting institutions? How have collectors’ original intentions manifested themselves in their museums and to what extent have founder mandates contributed to the survival or demise of their institutions? How have house museums’ collections or buildings evolved over time, and how have museums reinterpreted their collections to remain relevant to contemporary and diverse audiences? Are these changes in keeping with or a departure from their founders’ visions? And how have major historic events like the 2008 financial crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic impacted house museums?

For the conference program and to sign up for this event (at no cost), see the website of the Society for the History of Collecting.