National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Corcoran Journals of William MacLeod

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Macleod's journals. Courtesy George Washington University.


Corcoran Gallery of Art

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As the Corcoran Gallery’s first curator and one of the first museum professionals in the United States, Mr. William MacLeod (1811-1892) was a very influential figure in shaping the Corcoran Gallery of Art and establishing the important role of museum curator in America. As a painter himself, MacLeod brought his own artistic creativity and sensibility to his position, a sense that is reflected in the daily accounts and journals he maintained of gallery activities.  MacLeod maintained these journals as an aid in compiling his annual reports to the Board of Trustees - reports that included statistics and narrative reports on all of the Corcoran’s activities.  In brief daily entries, MacLeod noted objects received on exhibition, the physical condition of the building, the visit to the gallery by important personages, the activities of the students, notable correspondence received, as well as the number of visitors and the number of catalogs sold, his health, and the weather.  The journals are among the most important records on the earliest years of the museum and the school.

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