Schweizer Paul D. Schweizer

Ph.D. – Director Emeritus

Dr. Paul D. Schweizer, a historian, educator and museum administrator, was Director and Chief Curator of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute’s Museum of Art for thirty-one years. He was appointed Director Emeritus by the Institute’s Board of Trustees in March 2012, and continues his affiliation with the Institute as curator of the Museum’s forthcoming exhibition, America’s Eden: Thomas Cole and The Voyage of Life, which will open at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati in June 2014, on the 175th anniversary of the date Cole began painting the series, and then will travel to three other museums.

Paul’s directorship was marked by dynamic leadership, a passionate commitment to the growth and interpretation of the permanent collection, and unprecedented achievements in the Museum’s exhibition and educational programs, as well as its transition to technology and the development of a broader base of financial support. He raised the visibility of the Museum, professionalized its operations, refined and expanded its collections, and assembled a talented staff that achieved excellence in all aspects of the Museum’s operations and service to the public.

Some of the strategic initiatives Paul undertook during his directorship include the creation of the curatorial position for modern and contemporary art, streamlining of the Registrar and Exhibition Departments, founding of the Museum’s Advisory Committee, creation of seven new galleries from underutilized, non-public spaces, construction of the Milton J. Bloch Education Wing, renovation of both the Museum’s 1960 Philip Johnson-designed building, and the Institute’s founders’ ancestral home, Fountain Elms. He also coordinated the first and two subsequent accreditations by the American Association of Museums, and a National Register of Historic Landmarks designation for the section of the Museum that Johnson designed. He secured endowments or bequests of art from Jane B. and David E. Sayre-Bryant, William C. and Catherine W. Palmer, Easton Pribble and, most recently, Judge Richard J. and Catherine Clarke Cardamone. Two private collections he helped to secure will be bequeathed to the Museum in the future.

Until his retirement as director of the Museum, Paul was Adjunct Professor of Art History at PrattMWP. He previously taught art history at St. Lawrence University and the University of Delaware, and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Canada and Europe. His enthusiasm for visual literacy and lifelong learning led him to quadruple the size of the Museum’s Education Department staff and reorganize its docent corps, to encourage the development of curriculum-based tours, the use of digital interpretative media, and the widespread distribution of audience surveys and interpretative labels in the galleries. The Museum’s innovative minority student internship program, and school bus tour reimbursement program, both underwritten with corporate funding, served as models for other museums.

The care of the permanent collection was secured when Paul led the Museum to join the fledgling Williamstown Art Conservation Center in the early 1980s. He addressed the collection’s long-term storage needs through the acquisition of an off-site warehouse, and the construction of state-of-the-art underground storage facilities for the Museum’s collections. He also oversaw the automation of the Museum’s collection records, advocated for the creation of an Institute-wide archival program and, through judicious deaccessioning, established the Museum’s art acquisitions endowment.

The visibility of the Museum’s renowned permanent collections was enhanced when he instituted a traveling exhibition program that over time toured nine different parts of the collection to 38 museums in the United States and Europe. The 2006 exhibition of masterworks from the Museum’s 19th- and 20th-century American collections at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York City generated widespread attention and media coverage. his belief in the widest possible distribution of Museum scholarship is reflected in the series of eight collection catalogs on different segments of the collection the Museum began publishing in 1987.

Paul holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Delaware, where he was a Unidel Fellow for several years. He wrote his dissertation on landscape imagery and color theory in the art of the 19th-century English painter John Constable under the supervision of Professor Barbara Maria Stafford. He is an emeritus member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and twice served as a trustee of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. He previously was president of the board of directors of the Gallery Association of New York State, president of the board of trustees of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, a trustee of the Museum Association of New York, a Visiting Committee member of the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, and a Senior Scholar of the now-defunct Peale Family Still Life Painting Project. In 2011 Paul was appointed as a founding member of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site’s National Council.

← Return to Staff