The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 4
Aug 1982


The Mellon Foundation

The annual reports of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation give a picture of significant and increasing support for conservation over the last few years. Quite reasonably, the Foundation considers conservation a means of achieving its larger purpose, to "aid and promote such religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes as may be in the furtherance of the public welfare or tend to promote the well-doing or wellbeing of mankind."

In support of this purpose, the Foundation "currently makes grants on a selective basis to institutions in higher education, in cultural affairs and the performing arts, in medical, public health, and population research, and in certain environmental and public affairs areas." Conservation falls in two of these categories: higher education and cultural affairs; in short, libraries and museums.

The various conservation programs, job openings and publications that result from the Foundation's support are later reflected in a number of publications as news items. From the Foundation's newly issued 1981 annual report, here is a list of 1981 grants for conservation.

Grants for Higher Education

1. Grants or endowments in support of conservation department

American Antiquarian Society - $250,000
Folger Shakespeare Library - $350,000
Henry E. Huntington Library - $450,000

2. Other

Columbia University, for programs to train conservators of library and archival materials and administrators of library preservation programs - $100,000

Johns Hopkins University, for programs within the University Library to train preservation apprentices and to provide preservation instruction and services to other institutions - $185,000

Newberry Library, to develop an economical small- scale means of treating water-damaged or insect- infested books - $18,000; matching endowment in support of its conservation department - $600,000

Grants for Cultural Projects

1. Grants or endowments in support of conservation department

Brooklyn Institute of Arts - $175,000
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation - $200,000
Metropolitan Museum of Art - $750,000
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT - $100,000
Winterthur Museum - $175,000

2. Grants for advanced conservation apprenticeship training program; matching endowment in support of conservation department

Art Institute of Chicago - $483,500
Cleveland Museum of Art - $536,925
Founders Society, Detroit Institute of Arts -$541,661
Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth - $266,000
Los Angeles County Museum of Art - $435,818
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - $789,000
Philadelphia Museum of Art - $421,000
Trustees of Walters Art Gallery - $252,873

3. Grants for training

Drawing Center, Inc., New York City, for a program of instruction in paper conservation - $12,000

Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, to support a pilot project of two refresher courses for members of the American Institute for Conservation - $15,000

Harvard University, for use by the Fogg Art Museum's Center for Conservation and Technical Studies to strengthen its advanced-level conservation training program - $190,000

New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, to provide stipends for students completing their third year of training in the Conservation of Artistic and Historic Objects program -$ 167, 000

University of Delaware, for the Master of Science Program in the Conservation of Artistic and Historic Objects conducted by the University and the Winterthur Museum - $200,000

4. Program support

Balboa Art Conservation Center, San Diego - $100,000
Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, Philadelphia - $20,000

5. Other

Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, for the Mellon Institute in support of the Research Center on Materials of the Artist and Conservator -$ 25 0, 000

Institute of Fine Arts Foundation, New York, for the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts -$140,000; matching endowment in support of the Conservation Center - $500,000

Intermuseum Conservation Association, Oberlin -$ 180,000

Museum of Modern Art, New York, in support of its art conservation programs, and for its library - $1,000,000

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in support of the Conservation Department and the library -$314,000

Two years previously, in 1979, Yale and the University of Wisconsin but none of the other "Higher Education" institutions received support for conservation. By contrast, 15 of the 24 cultural institutions listed were receiving support then. This is consistent with the overall picture from other sources: museums do more conservation than libraries, but libraries have started to catch up.

The Mellon Foundation's 1979 annual report summarizes its concern with conservation as follows:

Over the years the Foundation has recognized the need for a coherent national program in conservation of works of art that will provide serious training for prospective conservators, a number of properly equipped and staffed regional treatment laboratories (to serve museums and other institutions too small to maintain their own services), and scientific research on basic problems of the field. It has also recognized needs for the preservation of books and manuscripts

In addition to providing funds for the training of some paper conservators in [museum apprenticeship] programs, the Foundation in 1979 encouraged the Council on Library Resources to initiate a systematic study of current practices in the manufacture of library-quality books and of what might be done to increase use of more durable papers and bindings. We have also begun to assist libraries in their conservation efforts and training opportunities in the field to determine how they might best be strengthened or extended.

The Foundation's assets at the end of 1981 were $735,978,707. Sometimes its staff will approach a deserving institution and offer help, but the normal way of distributing funds is used too, according to a statement in its annual reports:

Applications are considered throughout the year, and no special forms are required. Ordinarily a simple letter setting forth the need, the nature and the amount of the request and the justification for it, together with evidence of suitable classification by the Internal Revenue Service and any supplementary exhibits an applicant may wish to submit, will suffice to assure consideration. Applicants must realize, however, that the Foundation is able to respond favorably only to a small fraction of the requests that it receives. The Foundation does not award fellowships or other grants to individuals or make grants to strictly local organizations.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is at 140 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10021.

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