William Berkeley, First Director of the HRM

A former scientist and teacher of chemistry, Dr. William N. Berkeley joined Mabel Donnelly at the Museum as curator in 1926 and then as its first director in January of the following year. During his 11-year tenure, Dr. Berkeley spearheaded many important initiatives and changes to the Museum, which included creating collection galleries devoted to fine arts, natural history, earth sciences, and local and world history. He also introduced educational lectures, which took place in Glenview’s Parlor, and encouraged visits from local schools.

Under Berkeley’s tenure, exhibition genres and topics varied widely, from photography, arts and crafts, Hudson River School paintings, and Japanese prints, to the evolution of light and transportation. Berkeley also founded the Women’s Museum Auxiliary (later called the Museum Auxiliary), a group of active volunteers that secured speakers for talks and planned special events at the Museum, such as the annual flower show. In 1932, he published a primer advocating museums, entitled The Small-Community Museum, Why it is Entirely Feasible; Why it is Extremely Desirable. Many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New-York Historical Society, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired his practical guide for their libraries.