Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director.

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The son of Daniel M. Fox, lawyer and mayor of Philadelphia, William Henry Fox received academic (1881) and law (1883) degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied studio art and drew and painted as an amateur. In 1904, Fox served as Secretary of the Fine Arts Department of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, and the following year became the first Director of the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis. In 1910, he served as Secretary General of the American Section of the International Exposition of Art and History in Rome.

Fox returned to America in October 1912 and began a short job search that brought him to Brooklyn. He was appointed Curator in Chief of the Central Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences (The Brooklyn Museum) in January 1913 and then Director in January 1914, the first person to hold that office. His tenure at the Museum lasted the remainder of his career: Fox went on sabbatical in May 1933, leaving Philip Newell Youtz as Acting Director, and retired permanently in April 1934.

When hired by Brooklyn Institute President A. Augustus Healy, Fox was charged with redressing an imbalance between Natural History and Fine Arts at the Museum, where Natural History exhibits had been receiving the most attention. In his early years, he created a new atmosphere in the overcrowded galleries by retiring many exhibits and creating alcoves with movable screens. In order to establish a special niche for the Museum in the New York art world, Fox began presenting the works of contemporary American and Eurpoean artists. He also worked to involve members of Brooklyn society in the institution, creating a Museum memberhsip program in 1916 and hosting gala social events at the Museum.

The Museum building itself underwent some change under Fox's administration, with the construction of the superstructure of Sections F and G in 1913-14 and the completion of interior spaces in 1923-25.

During Fox's administration, the three existing curatorial departments (Fine Arts, Ethnology, and Natural History) were expanded and subdivided to include Prints (1913, under the care of the Librarian), Decorative Arts (1925), Oriental Art (1929), and Egyptology (1932). The emphasis on fine and applied arts grew increasingly strong, eventually resulting in the transfer of Natural History collections and activities to the Brooklyn Children's Museum (a subdivision of the Museum), beginning in 1929.

The collections grew steadily during Fox's two decades in office, through donations, purchases, bequests, and loans, as well as by means of Museum-sponsored collecting expeditions. The Museum Collection Fund was established in 1913; funds for the purchase of objects were raised during yearly Collections Fund appeals. In addition to installations of the permanent collection, Fox inaugurated a regular series of special exhibitions of loaned works. Many of these exhibitions were organized by Fox himself and were circulated to other institutions after showing at The Brooklyn Museum.

Two publications were established during Fox's tenure, the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly, of which he was editor, and the Children's Museum News.

Educational activities were extremely important. Ties to the New York City Board of Education and the School Art League were forged in 1913. Public school art teachers' training courses were added in 1920 and links formed with local colleges in 1930 to offer credit for Museum courses. The use of college students to teach children's art classes also began in 1930. A full series of lectures and docent-led tours were supplemented by the introduction of motion pictures in 1915. Radio lectures and concerts on WNYC brought the Museum to an even broader audience. Fox was also committed to encouraging the use of the collections and the Museum by members of the design industry, establishing a designers' room in 1918, and also by artists, for whom a print lab was set up in 1914.

Fox was active in the art world and in community affairs, including memberships on the Advisory Board of An American Group; the Fine Arts Advisory Committee of the Century of Progress International Exposition; the board of the Art Students League; the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; the Carnegie Corporation Advisory Group on Museum Education; and the France-America Society.

From the description of William Henry Fox records, 1913-33 (bulk), 1908-35 (inclusive). (Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives). WorldCat record id: 122566549

Archival Resources
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creatorOf Brooklyn Museum. Office of the Director. William Henry Fox records, 1913-33 (bulk), 1908-35 (inclusive). Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adam, Tassilo. person
associatedWith American Federation of Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen. corporateBody
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associatedWith Art Students League. corporateBody
associatedWith Babbott, Frank Lusk, 1854-1933. person
associatedWith Blashfield, Edwin Howland, 1848-1936. person
associatedWith Blum, Edward C. 1863-1946. person
associatedWith Brinton, Christian, 1870-1942. person
associatedWith Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
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associatedWith Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. corporateBody
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associatedWith Carnegie Institute. Museum of Art. corporateBody
associatedWith Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-1934 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Coleman, Charles Caryl, 1840-1928. person
associatedWith Crawford, M. D. C. 1882-1949. person
associatedWith Crowninshield, Frank, 1872-1947. person
associatedWith Culin, Stewart, 1858-1929. person
associatedWith Dreier, Dorothea A., 1870-1923. person
associatedWith Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952. person
associatedWith Engelhardt, George P. 1871-1942. person
associatedWith Fox, Daniel M. person
associatedWith Fox, William Henry, 1858-1952. person
associatedWith France-America Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Friedsam, Michael, 1860?-1931. person
associatedWith Fuchs, Emil, 1866-1929. person
associatedWith Gallatin, A. E. 1881-1952. person
associatedWith Goodyear, W. H. 1846-1923. person
associatedWith Haslett, Samuel E. person
associatedWith Haynes, Elizabeth, 1959- person
associatedWith Healy, A. Augustus 1850-1921. person
associatedWith Helleu, Paul, 1859-1927. person
associatedWith Herriman, William H. person
associatedWith Hooper, Franklin W., 1851-1914. person
associatedWith Hutchinson, Susan A., 1873-1945. person
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associatedWith Jenkins, Alfred W., 1862-1932. person
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associatedWith Lockwood, Luke Vincent, 1872-1951. person
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associatedWith New York (N.Y.). Dept. of Parks. corporateBody
associatedWith Pennell, Joseph, 1857-1926. person
associatedWith Pratt, Caroline A.L. d. 1946. person
associatedWith Ramsay, Dick S., d. 1931. person
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associatedWith Wilson, Claggett, 1887-1952. person
associatedWith Youtz, Philip Newell, 1895-1972. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Art museums--Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Museum architecture
Art museums--Educational aspects
Art museum directors

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Ark ID: w6fn7wxx

SNAC ID: 8707549