The Cleveland Museum of Art

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Records of the Extensions Department

Background Information

Before the Cleveland Museum of Art opened the doors in 1916, the Extensions Department, or Division of Circulating Exhibits, was created. As part of the education department, extensions' purpose was to provide materials free of charge to local educational and civic organizations in order to assist in public education and awareness of the arts. The department maintained its own collection of objects in every media spanning ancient through contemporary art and covering all parts of the world. This collection was independent of the art museum's primary collection and therefore completely under the jurisdiction of the education department. Before the museum opened, the education department sent ambassadors throughout the city to spread the word about what the museum had to offer the community. The extensions division would continue this work after the museum opened by bringing mini galleries to libraries and schools all over northeast Ohio.

The museum's first director Frederic A. Whiting appointed Emily Gibson as head of the education department. Education was so important to Whiting that Gibson was one of the first people he hired. She immediately began working with local institutions to bring collections to the public. Whiting appointed Ruth Field Ruggles as head of extensions after Miss Gilquist, the first person working with the extensions materials, joined the war efforts in Europe in 1918. Whiting chose Ruggles for several reasons. She was the wife of Cleveland Museum of Art photographer Edd Ruggles and therefore a friend of the museum. Secondly, she worked with the Cleveland Public Library and could help solidify a relationship between the library and the museum. Mrs. Ruggles supplied the many cases throughout the Cleveland library branches with materials and created exhibits for the public free of charge. The library supplied Mrs. Ruggles with a car and driver to transport those materials.

During the early years the extensions department relied on gifts and loans for exhibits. Money was not budgeted to the division itself. It was only when the education department had any money left over that extensions could purchase much needed objects. The division's exhibits grew from fifteen in 1917 to thirty-five in 1920. This put a great deal of stress on the small collection. In a letter to Whiting in 1920, Ruggles explained the demands upon the department and the need for money to purchase new items for exhibits as "urgently necessary." She explained that they could not accept any new cases to display materials due to the lack of materials. Ruggles could have never dreamed that over the next seventy-five years the department would amass over 18,000 objects for display and use. Several endowments, including the educational purchase fund and a Rockefeller grant helped the department purchase small objects but it was not until 1948 with the establishment of the Harold T. Clark Educational Extensions Fund that the collection experienced major growth.

After thirty years of service including guiding the division through World War II, Ruth Field Ruggles retired in 1947, although she stayed on staff as a volunteer for many more years. She handed the division over to Doris Dunlavy. Dunlavy began with extensions in October 1946. Armed with a background in art and some teaching experience, she dove right in taking a considerable load off of Ruggles and proving a great addition to the staff. Dunlavy would deal with an ever increasing demand for exhibits around the Cleveland area. The growth of the division is reflected in annual reports. The reports became longer with the addition of more schools to the program. The increase in materials was helped significantly by the Harold T. Clark Educational Extensions Fund.

In January, 1960 the Extensions Exhibitions Department separated from the Education Department becoming an independent unit. The new department opened three galleries throughout the city. The first opened on the east side of Cleveland at Karamu House in 1959. The second extensions gallery opened in the summer of 1960 in the Cleveland Public Library and was simply called The Library Art Gallery. The Lakewood Civic Art Gallery opened in 1961 on the west side in Lakewood High School. These Galleries housed exhibits on a three month rotating schedule and were a great way for the department to show its larger collections to the public.

Extensions went through many changes in the 1970s. Doris Dunlavy retired in 1974 after twenty-eight years of service. Dunlavy had expanded extensions far beyond the original expectations of museum founders. In the spirit of broadening public education the extensions department became part of the Department of Art History and Education with Dunlavy's departure. The department went through another quick change of directors when Janet L. Mack took over extensions for the next two years until her retirement in 1976. Andrew T. Chakalis became the next extension division supervisor and would remain until the dismantling of the department in 1992.

The end of the extensions division came as a shock to museum staff and to the institutions that had come to depend on regular installations of materials from the museum. Due to budget constraints, in 1992 the Board of Trustees issued a statement informing everyone that the division would be closed by the end of the year. Only specific collections that were previously promised to extension exhibition locations would be loaned the following year. The 1992 museum annual report stated that collection materials that had taken three quarters of a century to amass and were exemplified around the world as a model teaching technique were being catalogued for a "better understanding of how those unusual resources might function in the broader education-outreach mission of the Museum." Outraged, many people associated with the department and in the community wrote letters begging the board to continue some sort of educational outreach for the community. By the end of 1992 the department was dissolved and Ann C. Boger, who joined Extensions in 1980, was the only person left to finish the division's business.