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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Caroline Richardson
Interviewer: Carol MacDonald
March 29, 1992
M: This is an interview of Mrs. Caroline Richardson, founder of the Ham Museum. It
is March 29, 1992. [To begin, would you please state your name?]
R: Caroline Julier Richardson.
M: Tell me about the origins of your name, particularly your middle name.
R: My maiden name was Julier. My father's parents were French and came from
France. My [paternal] grandmother's maiden name was Vaillant. Her father
came to this country when she was about fifteen years old and settled in
Cleveland, Ohio. My [paternal] grandfather's family came from France to
England and settled in the United States, where they met.
M: Go on about your grandparents.
R: My grandparents lived in Mount Kisco, New York. We lived in a small town
outside New York called Chappaqua, not far from Mount Kisco, so we saw our
grandparents quite frequently. My grandmother never spoke any English to us
as children. Unfortunately, she died when I was about eight or ten, and I lost the
ability to speak [French] after I left school. I am now in the process of taking
French again with the idea that I may be able to go to France and see if I can find
out something about my ancestors.
M: So you are doing a genealogical study.
R: Not really. I have done a genealogical study of my mother's family, the Sills, who
came to this country very early from England. But nobody really knows anything
about my father's family. My great-grandfather graduated from the Sorbonne
[University of Paris], and I have his diploma. What I am hoping to do is take the
diploma to the Sorbonne, and hopefully they will have some sort of record or they
may be able to direct me to some department.
M: Do you know what he studied there?
R: No, I know really nothing about him. We have a group of letters that he wrote to
my grandmother, his daughter Louisa Henrietta, just after she was married. He
was living in Cleveland and she was living in Mount Kisco, and he never really
adapted to this country. He never learned to speak English. His letters are very
unhappy and lonely. He tells her what she should be cooking and who she
should be entertaining. I am sure, just like all generations, she thought
everything her father said was silly. [laughter]
M: Can you tell me more about your mother and father and your growing up and the
influences they had on you?
R: My mother's family lived in New York and had a summer home in New
Hampshire. We spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire in the summertime
with my grandmother. (My grandfather died before I was born.) All of the
grandchildren would come and stay in New Hampshire together, so we had a big,
big family and lots of fun. There were lots of different people there.
The town that we lived in, Chappaqua, was a commuter town for New York City.
I guess all of the fathers and mothers, all the parents that I knew, commuted into
New York City. There was not a school in Chappaqua when we were growing
up. For our kindergarten we went to a school called Scarborough School in
Scarborough, New York, which was about an hour's drive west to the Hudson
[River]. By the time we were in second or third grade our fathers--as I recall,
there were probably about twenty to twenty-five of them--had gotten together and
formed a school. I guess you would call it a cooperative school. They hired the
head mistress, and she hired the [faculty]. We had an English teacher, a French
teacher, a geography teacher, a math teacher, and a science teacher.
M: It sounds like your fathers were very concerned about the long trip you had to
take every day.
R: Yes. There were not any public schools, as I recall, in any of the surrounding
towns, so we went to this school until about sixth grade. Then after sixth grade it
was disbanded, and we went to Mount Kisco to school, to a private country day
school, Newcastle. I do not know whether Newcastle started earlier than sixth
grade or whether we just stayed in our little school until sixth grade. Mrs. Cox
had been the principal of our school, and the name they had given to it was
Grayrock. The buildings are still there, and several years ago I went back with
one of my best friends. [It was] a trip into our past. We went there and visited.
We went into the house and visited the people and told them all about our school
days in that house.
M: How many years did you go to school there? Until you graduated from high
R: I went to Newcastle in probably sixth grade. I am not sure where I went in
seventh grade, but when I was ready for eighth grade I went away to school to
Charleston, South Carolina, Ashley Hall.
M: What did your father do?
R: My father was vice-president of the Railway Express Agency, which is no longer
a company. The Railway Express Agency started as the pony express, and my
grandfather was vice-president of that organization. Then it became the Railway
Express Agency--possibly the Railway Express Company and then the Railway
Express Agency. Theirs was the first company to get refrigerated cars and bring
fruit and vegetables from California. Before that time we had not had fresh fruit
and fresh vegetables in the East because of lack of refrigeration. My father
would come home for dinner and say, "Well, Number 72 has left California, and it
should be in [such-and-such a city] now." He would watch the train come all the
way across the United States.
M: Was that a family business, and your grandfather was the president?
R: No, it was not a family business. The present American Express was a spin-off
of that, but I do not know when that part of the company left.
M: What about your mother? What was she like?
R: My mother was considered very progressive by her friends. She was very
interested in everything she read about nutrition and what nutrition would do for
your body. One of the things that I remember is that we ate a great many raw
vegetables, which was totally unheard of at the time: raw peas, raw carrots, raw
M: Did you like that as a child?
R: Yes, we liked it very much.
She came from a large family. She had four older brothers and an older sister.
She was the youngest by eight years. My uncle Harry, her oldest brother, was
professor of history at Cornell University for many years. Her next brother, my
uncle James Sill, went to Columbia [University] and became an Episcopal
missionary in North Carolina. The next brother, Frederick Sill, joined the Order of
the Holy Cross, an Episcopal religious order, much against the wishes of his
family. In 1906 he founded Kent School, which is now a boys' preparatory school
in Kent, Connecticut. It is a very well-known school. The next brother, Percy,
died. My aunt Florence taught English literature and Latin at Barnard School for
Girls for many years. My mother graduated from Horace Mann School, where
she had met my father in fourth grade), and went to Smith [College in
Northampton, MA]. She stayed at Smith until Christmas, when there was a flu
epidemic, and she was sent home. She was very much in love with somebody
else at the time and did not return to Smith.
She became ill and had to leave the school?
Yes. As I recall, they did not have infirmary facilities for the number of people
who were ill, so they just put them on the train and sent them home.
Did she return to another school?
No, she never went on to college. My grandfather, her father, was an Episcopal
priest in New York City in the area that used to be called Hell's Kitchen. It was in
the area where Macy's department store is and a little to the north and west of
that area. My mother became very active in teaching the immigrant girls who
came into this country at the time how to sew and how to speak English.
So she was doing something rather unusual for a woman.
Not really. Women did teach at that time.
M: I am sure her father must have been very pleased.
R: Yes, he was.
M: How many sisters and brothers did you have?
R: I had two sisters. My older sister, Mary Louisa Vaillant, was born July 13, 1913,
and I was born April 8, 1917. My name was Caroline Burgess Julier. My
youngest sister, Jane Burges, was born September  1923, I think.
M: Do you have any brothers?
R: No brothers.
I cannot remember the exact year that my older sister died. My sister died of
cancer, a brain tumor, October 21, 1980.
M: Were you very close with your sisters?
R: No. My older sister lived in Kent, Connecticut, where Kent School is, and my
younger sister lives in Garrison, New York, which is a town on the Hudson River.
M: Did you become interested in art as a child? Was there a person you admired at
R: From as early as I can remember I have always been interested in drawing and
art. I guess when I was a child my mother was extremely interested in taking us
to the museum and explaining to us about the way certain painters painted and
why they painted that way. We would go to New York about every two months, I
would say, to the Metropolitan [Museum of Art]. I feel as if I grew up in the
Metropolitan Museum. So I became very familiar [with] and very close to works
of art. They were not frightening to me the way they are to many people. It did
not worry me that I did not understand everything that I was looking at. I just
enjoyed it. She was very, very conscious of that.
Her education, which had not gone really beyond high school, [had not had that
benefit]. She felt that the traveling we did was probably more educational than
classroom [activities]. We went on a good many trips. We went to Boston to
look at the art museums and to Chicago and, in particular, New York.
Did your sisters go along?
My older sister went. My younger sister was seven years younger than I,
therefore she really did not enter into these types of trips. She would stay at
home with our housekeeper. I know now she somehow resents the fact that my
older sister and I did a great many things that she did not do. It was just that we
were of the age and she was too young.
So your mother must have been a reader.
A tremendous reader.
When you went to high school, did you go away to school?
Yes. I went to Ashley Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, for three years, I think.
At Ashley Hall we had a system that if you got a certain grade in your classwork,
you did not have to take exams. So I was always exempt from exams. My father
did not think that was a very good idea, so he brought me home to a school in
Englewood, New Jersey, DWIGHT School, which was a school that my aunt had
gone to as a young girl. It had a small boarding department and a very large day
school. There I took ancient and medieval history, English history, American
history, history of architecture, ancient and medieval art, and I think I took what
was called modern art. [But] I graduated from school in 1936, so many of the
painters who we are now talking about and know so well were hardly mentioned
at that time. I loved all of those subjects.
After I graduated from high school, I got a job at the American School of Design
in New York City. I graduated from Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in New
York, the finest secretarial school in the country. After I graduated, I got a job at
the American School of Design with the idea that I could go to night school,
which I did until I met my present husband. Then my night school classes began
to fall off.
M: Where did you meet your husband?
R: In New York City. I had a friend named Bob Moore, and he worked at the
Hanover Bank in New York. He told me that he was going to move in with
another young man, and the other young man was my present husband [James
G. Richardson]. [This was in 1942.]
M: So while you were working at the School of Design, you met [your husband] and
got married and discontinued your night classes.
R: Yes [but not until 1943].
M: Where did you go to night school?
R: At the school.
M: Were you taking art courses?
M: Did you produce artwork, or were you more interested in the history?
R: When I started working there, I thought that I wanted to be a fashion designer,
and it was a school that specialized in training for fashion design. We would go
out and stand on the sidewalk outside a window, let us say Bergdorf-Goodman or
J. Thorpe, and copy the dresses that were in the windows.
M: It sounds like you enjoyed that.
R: I enjoyed it very much. I loved it. Then came the war, and Jim was drafted.
M: Were you married?
R: No. He was eventually sent to New Orleans to Camp Harahan for embarkation
to the Pacific. We had planned originally that we would not be married until the
war was over. But when he got to New Orleans, we decided that we would be
married, so I went on a train to New Orleans with my mother and my sister. We
were married in Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans on March 8, 1943. We
lived there for several months before he was shipped overseas. Then I came
home to Kent, Connecticut, where my uncle had had a serious stroke. I became
his private secretary. I stayed there throughout the war.
M: What did your uncle do?
R: Headmaster/principal [of Kent School].
M: So you stayed at your uncle's while you were waiting?
R: Yes. My mother was also there. She was taking care of his household. He had
several nurses, and my mother ran the house.
M: So you were still visiting museums and that kind of thing in New York City.
M: When your husband returned [from the war], did you stay [in New York]?
R: He had been trained as an anti-aircraft officer, and he was brought home to be
retrained as an infantry officer. The idea was that this group of officers would be
going as the second wave after the Normandy invasion. Although he was
retrained, he developed asthma and was never sent overseas. His infantry
training took place at Fort Benning, Georgia, and at the end of that training our
orders were to report to Camp Blanding [just outside of Starke] in Florida.
M: So that is how you came to Florida.
R: That is how we came to Florida. We finally found a place to live in Melrose, and
we lived there until we eventually found a little place to live in Gainesville.
M: And your husband was in the service all this time?
M: What was Gainesville like when you first came, and how did you like the
University [of Florida]?
R: As I recall, there were about 3,000 students at the University. It was an all-male
university. University Avenue was very pretty. There were great big, gorgeous
trees along the road.
M: What year was this?
R: This was 1944. I think it is 4th Avenue that goes from University downtown that
was a double street with lovely trees in the center. It is a very pretty town. There
were very few streets paved, and there were no sidewalks. There was Wilson's
Department Store on the corner of the square. The old courthouse was there.
The grocery stores were around the square. Baird Hardware was around the
square. The town centered around the square.
M: So your husband was in the service. Did he go to the University?
R: When he got out of the service, we were living in Gainesville. We had one son,
Jimmy [James G. Richardson III], who was born on August 22, 1945. We did not
want to go back to New York. Jim thought he would go into ranching. We looked
around with the idea of buying property, and he was taking courses as a
graduate student at the University for something to do. That fall the men came
out of the army so much faster than anyone had expected and entered the
University because of the free education for the soldiers.
M: The GI Bill.
R: Yes, the GI Bill. The dean asked my husband if he would teach. He [my
husband] had always kind of stuck up his nose at my family because most of
them were either teachers or priests. He came home for lunch, and he had until
after lunch to make up his mind. Of course, he decided that he would teach, and
he taught for the next thirty-five or forty years.
M: At the University?
R: At the University. [He taught finance and insurance] in the College of Business
[Administration]. [Richardson taught from 1946 until he retired as professor
emeritus of finance in 1979. Ed.]
M: Was he also a businessman?
R: Not at that time, but eventually he was the first person to enter local politics from
the University. Before that, University personnel were not allowed to enter into
local politics. He was mayor three times.
M: What was the art community like here?
R: There was no art community. The University had a very small gallery [the
M: That opened in 1965. Is that the gallery you are talking about?
R: Yes. Wayne Reitz [president, University of Florida, 1955-1967] was instrumental
in getting that gallery started.
M: I became involved with the gallery first as a docent. Sally Hadley was the Junior
League member responsible for the docents at the gallery, and it was through
her that I became involved as a docent. I cannot remember exactly when the
Gallery Guild was formed.
M: That consists of community members?
R: Yes. There was a board that met monthly. I was on that for quite a long time.
When I started going to the University as a freshman and started taking art
history courses, I realized that the majority of my fellow art history students had
never really seen a fine, original work of art. They saw prints in their textbooks or
M: And they do not do justice.
R: They do not do justice. At that time I came home and told my husband that I felt
that we needed an art museum at the University of Florida [that was more
substantial than the University Gallery]. We did a lot of traveling, and every time
we went anywhere I found time to go into the university museums. Many, many--
I guess all the best--universities in the country have good art facilities. I am sure
that other people had thought of having an art museum. I am sure that Roy
Craven had hoped for an art museum. I am sure Joe Sabatella hoped for an art
museum. But nobody had really done anything at that point.
Roy Craven was ...
Director of the [University] Gallery.
And Sabatella was dean.
Sabatella was dean of [the College of] Fine Arts. I went to see President [Robert
Q.] Marston, who was president at that time [1974-1984], and he was sitting on
the floor of the study working on his son's motorcycle parts. [He was] greasing
them or something. He was filthy, and there were loose papers all over the floor.
I sat down on the couch and told him what my project was. He was very
enthusiastic and said that it was a great idea, but of course there was no money.
He told me to go and see Bill Elmore, who was the University's financial
[business] manager. (Bill has since died.) I went to see Gary Koepke, who was
the head of planning and development at the University. He was the one who
would have to determine where the building would go.
What year was this?
This was probably 1978 or 1979. I went to see the [executive] vice-president
[John A. Nattress]. He gave me a list of five or six names of people on campus
who would have to be involved in all of this. I went to see all of them, and
everyone was very enthusiastic, and everyone said, of course, there was no
Finally, I think it was in May of 1979 [that] President Marston wrote a letter to
Dean Sabatella saying that he was making available $2,000 to the College of
Fine Arts, and I hand-delivered that letter and that check to Joe Sabatella. That
$2,000 was supposed to go toward printing a brochure to get the preliminary
plans underway. I talked to [E. L.] Roy Hunt [professor of law] and Bill Chandler
[prominent local attorney and art collector, now deceased] about their ideas of
what kind of a museum we should have.
M: So the brochure was intended to bring support from the community?
R: Yes. We were supposed to start going out visiting people and taking the
brochure and start raising money.
M: So at this point President Marston had said if you would raise the money he
would match the funds?
R: I am not sure anything like that was said at that time. I think in a way he gave me
the $2,000 more or less to get me off his back. I do not think he had the slightest
idea that we could raise the funds.
M: So then what was your plan of attack? What did you do after that? Did you start
lobbying the community?
R: Well, the body behind this had to be the Gallery Guild. I was doing this on my
own, but I had to have an organization. So in the Gallery Guild we decided that
we would form a long-range planning committee. At that time, as I recall--now
we are probably up to about 1980--1 asked David Cofrin [a local physician] if he
would join the Gallery Guild board. He said he did not know anything about art,
but I said, "Well, if you will join us, I will teach you." He did join us. David is a
very enthusiastic person, and he became very interested.
M: So when you were teaching him about art, what did you do?
R: It was nothing, really. It was just talking and taking him to various museums. It
was just talk. I loaned him all my books. He is a very avid reader.
M: So you sort of sparked the initial interest in an art museum.
R: I think I did, yes. I found out very quickly that there were a lot of doors that were
not really open to me because I was a woman. Bill Hadley took on the fight, and
he really was the force that got the thing through.
M: Was Bill Hadley an instructor?
R: Bill Hadley is a doctor. [He is] Dr. William Hadley. [Dr. Hadley has since
M: So he was a member of the guild?
M: And you felt because you are a woman that you could not...
R: I felt that when I went to speak with certain people at the University they did not
take me very seriously. I remember taking Bill Chandler to lunch once, and it
was very embarrassing for him that I invited him to lunch and I paid the bill, in
spite of the fact that I tried to do it very circumspectly. Now I think that has
changed. But particularly for my generation there were men at the University in
the administrative department that I needed to talk to seriously, and they simply
were polite to me, whereas with Dr. Hadley they paid attention.
M: How did you feel about that? Was that really frustrating?
R: Well, it is very frustrating, and you are very angry about it, but it is a fact of life.
M: I did not ask you if you graduated from the University.
R: Yes, I graduated with honors from the University.
In fine arts or history?
In fine arts, in painting.
Did you enter any shows or have your work displayed?
Well, I entered a few local shows in Gainesville and won some prizes. But then I
found that I was spending so much time working on the museum project. I was
on the original planning committee to get the thing off the ground, I was on the
fund raising committee, [and] I was on the search committee for the director.
When Gary Koepke left the University [in 1985], John Carlson became the head
of planning and development, and I was on a committee that he headed on the
building. Before we started the search for a director we had a national contest
for an architect to develop a plan for the museum.
At this point the museum was to be built on [SW] 13th Street.
At this point the museum was to be built on [SW] 13th Street. I had a slight run-
in with Bill Hadley because I was very much opposed to the 13th Street site. He
said to me and to others who did not like the 13th Street site that we must be
united in our effort, that if we talked against it we might not get anything. I
decided that if I kept my mouth shut and we got the museum, then we would
work on where it would be placed. At that time the students were demonstrating
against that site, but the art department wanted it nearby. They felt that students
would not go to an art museum unless it was within walking distance. Also, the
College of Fine Arts wanted very much to have this facility under their
We had someone come down to look at our facility and advise us. His name was
Dr. Stephen Prokopoff [director, Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, IL].
M: I think I read his recommendation in the old files.
R: Yes. I think he was a friend of Roy Craven and Dean Sabatella. What he said
that impressed me [most] was that the director of the museum should report
directly to the president or the vice-president [of the University] and that the
museum should not be under the direction of the College of Fine Arts. That was
a real blow to them, but that was something that I really fought hard for.
Although everyone was very polite, there were some very unhappy feelings.
M: So the art department was disappointed.
R: The art department was disappointed. We established a fine arts museum
campaign committee. That was under the direction of Bill Hadley, who was the
chairman. It was a fairly large committee of Gainesville citizens and out-of-town
people. As I recall, the out-of-town people never came, never did the first thing,
and a good many of the Gainesville people never did anything.
M: So it was a close-knit group that did most of the hard work.
M: Now, was this fine arts museum campaign committee an outgrowth of the Gallery
R: It came under the sponsorship of the Gallery Guild, but actually the Gallery Guild
members as such really never had any big interest. Bill Hadley was chairman of
the Gallery Guild for a while, and I was chairman of the Gallery Guild for a while.
So it came out of the Gallery Guild, but it was really almost a separate group.
M: From the University?
R: No, just the community.
M: How did you go about the first endowment?
R: We had a dinner on May 24, 1984, at the president's dining room, and all of the
committee had been invited. Of course, nobody came except just this little
group. At that time we had an idea that in order to start fund raising we had to
have a foundation. Elizabeth Dell, Mrs. S. T. Dell, was asked to check into what
kind of benefit concert we could have.
M: So your first fund raiser was a concert?
R: No, we never had it; we never did any of that. Joan Rivers was suggested [as a
possible entertainer], and Victor Borge, and $1,200 for a table of eight. Nothing
ever came of that; that just evaporated. So this group made up a list of names of
people that we would call on in Gainesville. I cannot find my list, but we made up
a list of the people that we would go to see in Gainesville to raise [the money].
As I recall, we were told we needed to raise [a total of] $1.5 million before the
[Florida] Foundation would be able to help us.
M: You were told to raise $1.5 million by the president of the University?
R: It was probably the foundation. Steve Aton was our representative at that time in
the foundation, and it was probably through the foundation that we were told [we
needed to raise $1.5 million] before they could hire a fund raiser for us, before
they could become involved.
M: Tell me what the Florida Foundation is.
R: The foundation is the organization of the University of Florida which raises
private funds. Steve Aton is no longer there; Bill Stone is no longer there. Bill
Stone was the head of it at that time. [He held] the position that Bob Lindgren
now has [director, University Development].
M: So your goal at that point was to raise $1.5 million in order to get support from
the [Florida] Foundation.
R: Yes. Bill Hadley was the chairman of our committee. We made up lists of
names, and each of us went to call on our prospects. [My husband] Jim went
with me. We made our pitch, and we raised $1.5 million.
M: That is amazing.
R: It is amazing.
M: In donations?
R: In donations from Gainesville. We did not go out of Gainesville.
M: Who were the first contributors? Who were the major donors?
R: I cannot remember, and I do not have those lists anymore.
M: But you did it. How long did it take?
R: It took the summer.
M: The summer of what year?
R: This was probably the summer of 1984.
M: So you proudly presented this amount to the president. At that point what was
R: One day the telephone rang, and David Cofrin said to me, "I just want you to
know that tomorrow the museum is going to get a name." I said, "It is?" and he
said: "Yes. It is going to be called the Samuel [P.] Harn Museum of Art. Our
family is giving $3 million."
M: How did you feel about that?
R: That was pretty exciting. I am sure that before that... I cannot remember when
Mr. [Budd Harris] Bishop [director, Ham Museum] was hired.
M: We have that on another tape about when he was hired. [Mr. Bishop came on
board in 1987. See UF191, Oral History Archives, University of Florida. Ed.]
What did the University say to you at that point about having $1.5 million?
R: At that point they decided that they would hire a fund raiser who, to my
knowledge, never raised any money.
M: He was unsuccessful because he was just not familiar with the community, or
was he just not adept as a fund raiser?
R: Well, raising money for art is much more difficult than raising money for the law
school or for the College of Business [Administration] or for football. Art lovers
[comprise] a very small, select group.
M: So the nature of the project is ...
R: ... is very, very difficult. He did not know who to go to. We gave him names,
but he was not able to do it. So then we got another fund raiser, and that was
about the same story.
M: So what was your goal? After you raised the $1.5 million, what was your next
R: Well, we have to go back to the search committee that was searching for a
museum director. When all the resumes came in and we read them, Mr.
Bishop's was so much finer than anyone else's that it was hard to believe that he
was really interested in coming. I thought he was coming down here and then he
would go back to Columbus [Ohio] and get a big raise. Instead, he came down
and was extremely excited over the idea of building a museum from scratch.
Apparently most museum directors have to add on to facilities that have been
built. Very few of them have an opportunity to build their own. He had come
originally from the South. He had been at Columbus for ten years and was
interested in coming home. I think that Vice-President Bob Bryan, who was
directly responsible for dealing with him as far hiring him was concerned, realized
that we had a real find, and I think that the salary that was offered was
commensurate with the job.
M: So he went back to Columbus and began to plan the museum and to work up the
tentative design, the basic design. So what were you doing at this point? You
had not heard from the [Florida] legislature yet.
R: No, we had not heard from the legislature yet. The University was more or less
dickering, I guess you could call it, with David Cofrin over his gift.
M: What do you mean by that? The way it would be appropriated?
R: The University agreed that they would hire a director for the art museum to be
here in 1985 to begin planning, organizing, and fund raising. David was to fund
the salary for the director for that year.
M: Dr. Cofrin would fund the salary?
R: Yes. The University was to organize the art museum so that the director
reported to the vice-president of academic affairs in the same way that the
director of the Florida Museum of Natural History reports. The University was
also interested in David's funding an eminent scholar chair in art. That, to my
knowledge, never came about.
M: So these were the negotiations that were going on, on how the money would be
[handled]. Do you know why the eminent scholar chair did not work out?
R: I think he was more interested in putting everything into the museum. The
eminent scholar, as I recall, comes for the art department.
M: So now we have a director with a salary.
R: Now, in 1985 we had a national contest for an architect for the 13th Street site. I
cannot remember where the winning architect came from. So we had a plan of a
building. That building was to be constructed with private funds so that we were
free to pick an architect [from] anywhere in the United States.
At the same time, Alan Robertson, president of Santa Fe Community College,
was talking to [Florida Congressman] Jon Mills about the possibility of a
performing arts center on the campus of Santa Fe Community College. Jon Mills
called me one day and asked me to come to his office to discuss plans with him
about the possibility of finding a site that would house the performing arts, the
fine arts, and hopefully the Florida Museum of Natural History. I thought this was
a very good idea, and he said for me to start looking for a piece of property
halfway between the University and the Santa Fe campus where we could put
M: So you must have been excited about that.
R: That was very exciting. We looked at all kinds of properties. Alan was really
very hesitant about putting the performing arts center on University [of Florida]
property. I think he finally came around when he realized that he was being
given the piece of property, so he was getting a very good deal. He was very,
very much involved in the performing arts center, and if he had stayed on as
president, I am sure that it would have stayed under the direction of Santa Fe
Community College. Alan is very arts-oriented and would have found a way to
have kept that.
M: I thought that Santa Fe was still responsible for the performing arts center. Is
that not true?
R: They gave it to the University [of Florida].
R: Once Jon Mills and the [Florida] legislature became involved with the museum,
the architect who had won the contest was no longer eligible because state
institutions have rules and regulations that private funds do not. As I recall, we
had to have a Florida architect.
M: So that was one of the criteria for getting an architect.
R: Yes, so we began to search for a Florida architect. One of the things we did was
go out to Dallas or Houston and looked at the work of Kha La-Huu [an architect
from Orlando who formed a partnership with Jackson-Reeger here in
Gainesville]. He had never built a museum before, but we liked everything that
we saw of his work. He eventually was chosen as the architect for the building.
M: So then they went to work with the plan.
R: Yes. When Mr. Bishop was hired he had a plan that had been prepared by Roy
Craven for a museum, and I think he may have used that basic structure. But the
museum is very, very much Mr. Bishop's idea of how a museum should be built
and how it should function. To my knowledge, it functions absolutely perfectly.
M: That is what I understand too. It was interesting to hear his story and his
experiences. He has been on the American Association of Museums
[accreditation board] and has traveled to many museums. He has just a wealth
of knowledge of how a museum should run.
M: Then the architect was in the building process. How long did it take to get
R: It was a long time. It just seems as if it is never [going to get there].
M: [Was there] a lot of red tape?
R: Yes, [there was] a lot of red tape. It seemed as it was never going to get started.
But I cannot tell you how long it was. I do not have notes on things like that.
M: Did you continue to fund raise at this point, or were you receiving enough money
from the legislature with its matching funds?
R: I think we continued to fund raise. By this time we had a fund raiser, and once
you have a fund raiser, it is his job. The Gallery Guild was still going at this same
time. We were still trying to raise funds for shows that we were giving at the
Gallery Guild. So our fund raising pretty much moved back to just fund raising
small amounts. I never asked for more than $1,000 from a person for the Gallery
Guild. We were able to raise--with our membership dues and the amount of fund
raising that we did--$30,000 for shows. So we continued to have shows. Also,
the University began to help us because they knew that we were going to move
into a museum situation, and it behooved them to keep the momentum up. So
we had pretty good shows the last two or three years when we knew we were
going to be closing and moving.
M: I am sure you are very pleased to know the collections would be taken care of.
From what I understand they were all around the campus.
R: Yes, they were. In fact, some people did not even know that the paintings and
the sculptures belonged to the University. They just thought they belonged to
M: Now there is a Henry Moore sculpture in the museum that is so carefully
guarded, and Dr. [Sam] Proctor [distinguished service professor of history and
director, Oral History Project] was saying it used to sit outdoors and the kids were
leaning on it. Did you have anything to do with the collections or the gallery?
R: No. That was entirely up to Roy Craven as far as I know, as he was the director
of the gallery. If someone wanted to donate, they would contact him. He was
responsible for accepting gifts. I do not think he ever turned anything down. I
think if anything was offered to him, he accepted it.
M: So now we have the museum being constructed and we have the director. At
this point the Gallery Guild must have felt quite proud of all their efforts. What is
their role now?
R: There is no Gallery Guild now.
M: Did you have input as to the first exhibits? Is there an organization now?
R: No, there is no organization now. The director is directing under the provost and
president [of the University of Florida] and he has his staff, and they decide on
the shows entirely. The organization is purely membership in the museum.
M: So how do you feel about the museum? Do you like it?
R: It far exceeds my wildest imagination. Every time I walk up the entrance of that
building I get excited. If you stand in that room on a gorgeous sunny day when
the Florida sky is blue and the clouds [roll by], it is just absolutely breath-taking.
Now that they have moved the Audrey Flack goddess [statue] Islandia out into
that big room, she looks just stunning against the sky as you come in. She used
to be in one of the small galleries on a lower pedestal, and she did not show up
at all. But now I think she looks just wonderful.
M: I understand that you made a large contribution yourself. Tell me about that.
R: When Mr. Bishop came to the museum, we made our first contribution. We were
so pleased to know that we were going to have an art museum and that Mr.
Bishop was going to be the director that we decided to make a gift of $100,000 to
start an acquisition fund.
I had been visiting museums as often as I could. One day I was in the University
of Virginia gallery, and the director was looking at a Christie's catalog. [Christie's
is the world's oldest fine art auction house, with a worldwide network of
salesrooms. Ed.] He told me that he had a donor who gave him the funds once
every year to buy a work of art. He said to me, "Even if you find only one person
[like that], in twenty years you will have a fine collection." So initially our
$100,000 was to start that fund. Now we have just made a commitment of $1
million to increase the fund, and hopefully other people will add to that fund. A
museum of our size needs approximately $3 million in the acquisition fund to be
able to purchase quality works of art annually. This is left entirely to the
discretion of the director.
Now, the first painting that was bought with our fund was painted by [American
painter] Elmer Ladislaw Novotny. It is a self-portrait, and it was painted, I think,
in 1933. Mr. Bishop had this painting sent on approval to the museum and
invited Jim and me to come and see it and talk with him about it. He did not ask
us to make up our minds at that moment. He just said that this was a portrait that
he would like to add to our American collection. Our American collection is
primarily the gift of Bill and Eloise Chandler, and parts of it are very fine. The
portraits are weaker, and Mr. Bishop, with the purchase of this particular portrait,
felt that he was beginning to strengthen that particular side of our collection. I am
extremely fond of this painting.
M: What is it that you like about it?
R: I have four sons, and all of them are extremely artistic. Although none of them
looks like this man, I feel that this is sort of the essence of a young artist.
M: So he wanted you to see the portrait, and then he went ahead and purchased [it].
R: If we had said no, that would have been satisfactory to him, and he would have
tried something else.
M: Was that painting from the Columbus museum? Is that where it came from?
R: No. This painting was in New York; I think that it came from a gallery in New
York. You would have to ask him about that. Our hope is that Mr. Bishop will
stay long enough to build the collection. We have a very good base.
M: What is your favorite collection?
R: I guess it would be the paintings. I am very fond of sculpture, and I love the
African room, but I think that I enjoy paintings [most].
M: The American paintings?
R: Yes, and drawings.
M: What do you think of the Skowhegan collection? [Skowhegan is a school of
painting and sculpture in Maine. To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the
school, a national competition was held in 1986 for artists who had studied at
Skowhegan the previous decade. The Ham Museum received a collection of
fifty-one contemporary American works and developed an exhibition called
"Skowhegan--A Ten-Year Retrospective, 1975-1985." Ed.] Was that a
R: No, that is a visiting [collection]. I am very fond and very interested in
contemporary art. I do not know a great deal about it. I think it is very interesting
to look at. I think most of it is not something that I would want to hang on my
walls. I am very old-fashioned, very conservative, very ordinary in what I want to
look at on my walls. I want something pleasant and cheerful and bright.
M: So what is your favorite period of art?
R: That is a difficult question. I did extra work in printmaking and etching, and I am
very, very fond of etchings.
M: Are you still working as an artist?
R: No, I have not been working as an artist for the last five years as far as painting
goes, simply because painting is a full-time commitment. You cannot just paint
on Tuesday and Thursdays. You have to paint. With my involvement with the
museum, I simply have not had that [time]. I guess my artistic endeavor comes
out in quilts. I have made about eight quilts.
M: Are you a member of a quilting organization?
R: No, I am not. I just quilt on my own.
M: Do you do your own designs?
M: So where do you see the collection going now? Do you have input into the
R: No, not particularly. I am not sure where the collection will go in the next fifty
years. I am sure we will always have a strong Latin-American interest, and of
course because of our African collection we will have a strong interest in that.
M: About the Latin American collection, that is related to the Center for Latin
M: Do they have a Latin American collection?
R: That collection is on loan. That does not belong to us. It is on long-term loan.
As a matter of fact, I think it will be going this summer. I do not know what will
M: So compared to, say, the Metropolitan [Museum of Art in New York City] or other
museums you have seen, do you enjoy a university museum?
R: I think the thing that I enjoy most about this museum or almost any university
museum is the size; it is much easier to enjoy art, to me, in a smaller
environment. It is very hard to learn if you are in the Metropolitan Museum that
you have to walk quickly through a gallery. Somehow I, at least, always feel a
little guilty when walking through a gallery of fantastic artwork.
M: You are not giving it its deserved attention.
R: I am not giving it its deserved attention. But you cannot see it all, and you have
to decide what you are going to look at. For instance, I am taking my ten-year-
old granddaughter to Paris next week, and I have been trying to decide in my
mind what I want her to see most. I feel that she should see the Mona Lisa; I feel
she should see the real painting. But I do not feel that it would do her any good
to spend two hours wandering around the Louvre, because it is too big and too
much. So I will push her here and there.
M: So you very much approve of the smaller-size [facilities].
M: What has given you the most satisfaction in this whole process?
R: Seeing the dream fulfilled, the fact that we did not have a museum and now we
have one, and it has certainly not been me alone. There have been many, many,
many people [involved in the effort]. And I do not think it was even my idea as far
as the germ of a museum, but I do think that I was very influential in getting the
And you are proud.
I am very proud and pleased to have been a part of that.