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Guest scholar and conservator files, 1978-2005

To access physical materials at the Getty, go to the library catalog record for this collection and click "Request an Item." Click here for general library access policy. See the Administrative Information section of this finding aid for access restrictions specific to the records described below. Please note, some of the records may be stored off site; advanced notice is required for access to these materials.
Guide to the J. Paul Getty Museum Guest Scholar and Conservator Files, 1978-2005

Biography/Administrative History

The J. Paul Getty Museum was established as a charitable trust in 1953 by billionaire J. Paul Getty in order to house his growing art collections. Getty had been collecting art since the 1930s. The J. Paul Getty Museum originally opened in 1954, with relatively little publicity, in two rooms of Mr. Getty's Ranch House in the Pacific Palisades near Malibu, California. By August 1955 the museum in the Ranch House had six gallery areas. In 1956 Mr. Getty began planning a new antiquities gallery, which was completed and opened to the public in mid-December 1957. Each year the number of museum visitors increased, and though Mr. Getty curtailed his art acquisitions activities beginning in 1958, the museum continued to grow.

In the fall of 1968, after considering various options for expanding the Ranch House, Getty decided to build a separate museum facility on the same property. This new museum was designed in the form of a first-century Roman country house, based primarily on the plans of the ancient Villa dei Papiri just outside of Herculaneum, Italy. The new museum facility opened to the public on January 16, 1974. Although Getty retained the title of Museum Director over the years, he never left his home in England to visit the new museum building, effectively making the Museum Curator or Deputy Director the on-site director. Getty monitored every expense and purchase made by the museum, and staff regularly traveled to Sutton Place, his home outside London, to consult with him on museum matters.

J. Paul Getty died in 1976 without ever seeing his new museum. Much to everyone's surprise Getty bequeathed almost his entire estate to the museum with a mission to promote “the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge." In 1981, when it became clear that the estate funds would soon be available, Harold M. Williams was hired as the first President of the museum trust. The trust then began a year of exploration to determine where it would focus its resources and energies in order to make the greatest possible contribution to the field of art and art history as a whole. The expansion of the Museum’s collections combined with the new programs proposed by the trust would require a facility beyond what the Villa site could accommodate. In 1983 the estate funds became available, the trust's name was officially changed from the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust to the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the museum retained the name the J. Paul Getty Museum. The following year Richard Meier & Partners was chosen to design the Getty Center to house the trust, its newly created programs, and a second site for the Museum.

Today the J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic organization serving both general audiences and specialized professionals. The Trust is a not-for-profit institution, educational in purpose and character, that focuses on the visual arts in all of their dimensions. As of 2009 the Trust supports and oversees four programs: the Getty Foundation; the Getty Conservation Institute; and the Getty Research Institute; and J. Paul Getty Museum. The Museum serves a wide variety of audiences through its expanded range of exhibitions and programming in the visual arts from two locations in the Los Angeles area: the Getty Villa near Malibu and the Getty Center in Brentwood.

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Center, which opened to the public in 1997, houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa underwent extensive renovation and expansion from 1997-2006 and reopened to the public on January 28, 2006. The Villa houses works of art from the Museum's collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. The J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to further knowledge of the visual arts by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of the highest quality. The Center and the Villa serve diverse audiences through the Museum's permanent collection, changing exhibitions, conservation, scholarship, research, and public programs.

The Department of Academic Affairs was created in 1978 to act as a liaison between the J. Paul Getty Museum, other museums, scholarly institutions, and individuals concerned with the study of art history and conservation. It was intended to maximize the full educational potential of all departments in the Museum and to propose and administer scholarly programs and projects. (The department was not charged with the education of the general public or of primary and secondary school students, which was instead the concern of the Department of Public Information at the time.) In 1986 Academic Affairs was merged into the Education Department, which was thereafter known as "Education and Academic Affairs" until the "Academic Affairs" was finally dropped from the title.

Under the guest scholar and visiting conservator programs, specific curatorial programs and conservation departments sponsored guest scholars or conservators for long-term residence and study at the Museum or for week-long seminars and consultation. The Education Department continued to operate the Museum Scholar program until that function was transferred to the Getty Research Institute's Department of Research and Education in 1997 (starting with the 1997-1998 Scholar Year).




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