Paul D. Schweizer, Ph.D.
Dr. Paul D. Schweizer, a historian, educator, museum administrator, and author, was Director and Chief Curator of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute’s Museum of Art from 1980 to 2012. He was named Museum Director Emeritus by the Institute’s Board of Trustees in March 2012, and has continued his affiliation with the Museum, most recently as curator of the traveling exhibition, “America’s Eden: Thomas Cole and The Voyage of Life,” which opened at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati in June 2014 on the 175th anniversary of the date Cole began painting The Voyage of Life. The exhibition subsequently traveled to the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.
Paul’s directorship was marked by dynamic leadership, a passionate commitment to the growth and interpretation of the permanent collection, unprecedented achievements in the Museum’s exhibition and educational programs, the transition to a computer-based record system, and the development of a broader base of financial support. During his tenure he raised the Museum’s visibility, professionalized its operations, refined and expanded its collections, and assembled a talented staff that achieved excellence in all aspects of its operations and service to the public.
Some of the strategic initiatives Paul undertook during his directorship include establishing a curatorial position for modern and contemporary art, streamlining the Registrar and Exhibition Departments, founding the Museum’s Advisory Committee, creating seven new galleries from underutilized, non-public spaces, conceptualizing and overseeing the construction of the Milton J. Bloch Education Wing, and renovating 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, as well as a National Register of Historic Landmarks designation for the section of the Museum Philip 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 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 also 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 to reorganize its docent corps. He encouraged 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, have served as models for other museums.
The long-term care of the permanent collection was secured when Paul led the Museum in the early 1980s to become a member of the fledgling Williamstown Art Conservation Center, an association that continues to this day. He addressed the collection’s long-term storage needs by encouraging the Institute’s Board of Trustees to purchase an off-site warehouse, and to authorize the construction of a state-of-the-art underground art storage facility. 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 first 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 thirty-eight 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 mentorship 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 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 became a founding member of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site’s National Advisory Council.