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HISTORY

“As the Museum celebrates its 60th anniversary, the next chapter lies within bringing art to communities, not just communities to the Museum itself. This collaboration is a great step toward the Museum's vision to grow.”

- Erika Schaefer

Executive Director of the Monmouth Museum since 2020

The Monmouth Museum is an independent, 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in 1963 as the result of a needs assessment conducted by the Junior League of Monmouth County. Until 1973, exhibitions were housed in storefronts and other available temporary spaces. A permanent home for the Museum was built in 1974 on the Brookdale Community College campus, on a two acre site leased from the College. 

 

The Monmouth Museum serves as a center for education and culture and is one of the largest private Museums in New Jersey.  We serve as a cultural center of the arts, history, and science to all ages and abilities.

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TIMELINE

The Full Story of The Monmouth Museum

1960s

Jan Yorke and Victoria Taylor, of the Junior League of Monmouth County, led a "case study" on cultural opportunities in Monmouth County. The Junior League provided the first funding and documented the need for a museum and cultural center. In 1963, the Monmouth Museum was formed. Charles B. Harding was the first Board Chair and Dr. James Whitehead was the first Executive Director. In its first 10 years, the Museum held exhibitions in the community. The first exhibit was held in Asbury Park, NJ, which was called "Spell of the Sea". There was a lease at 152 Broad Street in Red Bank, NJ for several years. Milton Bloch took over as the second Executive Director.

1970s

In 1970, the land at Brookdale was leased for $1 a year until 2061. Groundbreaking was in 1972. William Leonard became the second Board Chair, followed by Howard Berger. A mobile museum unit was created and driven to local schools with traveling exhibit trunks. Taphy Harcsar created the first trunk. In 1974, the Museum moved into its new home on the Brookdale campus. In 1976, Martin Rice served as Executive Director and in 1977, Judith Baron became the fourth Executive Director. In 1978, Dorothy "Mike" Morehouse stepped in as Executive Director, leading the Museum for the next 27 years. In 1978, the Wonder Wing was created, which was then known as the Wonder Warehouse or the Monmouth Museum Junior Museum. The Annual Juried Art Exhibition was founded by the Monmouth County Arts Council in 1979, has annually been held at the Museum, and continues today.

1980s

In 1980, Mrs. Nathan Bijur donated her collection of sewing birds. Today, the Monmouth Museum has the second largest collection next to the Smithsonian. In 1982, a volunteer group known as The Friends was formed by Jeanne Gouch and Barbara Campo. In 1986, the Museum received its first accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. Dr. Charles Moeller, Jr. became the fourth Board Chair. In 1988, the Becker Wing opened thanks to the generosity of Sherburn and Marion Becker.

1990s

In 1990, Dino-Mite, and exhibit of dinosaurs, cane to the Monmouth Museum. It brought in many families and a great deal of attention! Marion and Sherburn Becker made a donation of $450,000 to support the Becker Wing. In 1999, the Museum became accredited by the American Alliance of Museums for the second time.

2000s

The Tower construction was completed moving the Museum operations to the new second floor offices and creating the Nilson Gallery, named for the donors and long-time museum supporters, Gloria and Len Nilson. Mark Aikens became the Board Chair and three years later, Marion Becker was elected to the position. In 2006, Dorothy Morehouse retired and Avis Anderson became the Executive Director of the Museum. In 2007, the Museum launched the New Jersey Emerging Artists Series, which continues today.

2010s

In 2012, the Museum was reaccredited by the American Alliance of Museums. In 2013, the Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala. Dan Freski was elected Board Chair. In 2011, the Museum assumed complete sponsorship of The Annual Juried Art Exhibition, which has been held at the Museum prior since 1974, and is still annually held to this day. In 2018, Donna Kessinger became Executive Director. Ben Fleischner began his tenure as Board Chair in 2019.

2020s

In 2020, Erika Schaefer became Executive Director of the Museum in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was during that time that the Becker Wing upgrades began. Additional facility improvements were also completed with grant funding. In 2021, the Becker STEAM Wing partially opened its doors and was completed with the Garrett Reisman Center for Air & Space in 2023. Today, the Museum celebrates the achievements of the last 60 years and looks forward to its next chapter!

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