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J. Paul Getty Museum Department of Manuscripts original enclosures study collection, 1983-2005

Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record at 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, the collection is stored off site; advanced notice is required for access to these materials.
J. Paul Getty Museum Department of Manuscripts Original Enclosures Study Collection, 1983-2005

Administrative History

The J. Paul Getty Museum was established as a charitable trust in 1953 by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty in order to house his growing art collections, with his original Museum opening in 1954. Upon Getty's death in 1976 he bequeathed almost his entire estate to the Museum with a mission to promote "the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge." 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 2017 the Trust supports and oversees four programs: the Getty Foundation, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute, and the 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 December 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 to 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 history of the Museum's Department of Manuscripts dates to the early 1980s, a pivotal moment in the development of the expanded Getty Trust. The settlement of J. Paul Getty's estate precipitated lengthy discussions about the future directions of the Museum's collections. In 1983, the J. Paul Getty Museum was offered the finest private collection of illuminated manuscripts in the world, that of German chocolate manufacturer Peter Ludwig and his wife, Irene. It provided the opportunity to acquire a world-class collection with a single purchase, and broadened the scope of collecting by the Getty Museum. The collection consisted of 144 medieval and early Renaissance illuminated manuscripts, covering more than eleven hundred years and representing virtually every region of Europe. Particularly strong in German, central European, and later Flemish manuscripts, the collection was among the few private collections of manuscripts formed in the second half of the twentieth century that was still intact. The Trustees approved the purchase in 1983, and the Department of Manuscripts was formed with Thomas Kren, formerly Associate Curator of Paintings, as its head. Since the 1980s, rotating exhibitions featuring works from the Manuscripts collection have been an active part of the Getty Museum's temporary exhibitions program.

Thomas Kren served as Senior Curator of Manuscripts from 1984 to 2010, when he became Associate Director for Collections at the Getty Museum. Elizabeth Morrison succeeded Kren as the department's Senior Curator.

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