Papers, 1867-2005

Forbes, Edward Waldo, 1873-1969


119 boxes + oversize materials.
Series: I. General Correspondence II. Dealer Files.
These papers of Fogg Art Museum Director Edward Waldo Forbes document his administration of the museum and a wide range of personal and professional activities and interests. The bulk of the collection dates from 1909 to 1944. The papers consist primarily of correspondence, including a series of correspondence with art dealers, and also include photographs, reports, expedition field notes and journals, printed material, newspaper clippings, blueprints, meeting minutes, letters of recommendation, insurance records, invoices, page proofs, telegrams, rubbings, sketches, visiting cards, shipping documents and press releases.
Edward Waldo Forbes was born July 16, 1873 on Naushon Island, southwest of Cape Cod. He was the son of William Hathaway Forbes, founder and first president of the American Bell Telephone Company, and Edith Emerson Forbes, daughter of poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Forbes studied at Milton Academy before entering Harvard University, where he received an A.B. in 1895. During his studies at Harvard, Forbes' interest in the fine arts was encouraged by professor Charles Eliot Norton. He traveled in Europe in the years following his graduation, studying English literature at Oxford University from 1900 to 1902.
Forbes continued to cultivate his interest art, and he became a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1903 and of the Fogg Museum in 1904. In 1907, he married Margaret Laighton, an accomplished gardener and watercolorist. They were married until her death in 1966 and raised five children at Gerry's Landing, the Forbes' Cambridge home.
In 1907, Forbes taught his first course, on Florentine painting, at Harvard. He became lecturer in Fine Arts in 1909, the year he became Director of the Fogg Museum. Forbes continued to teach throughout his years as Director and was named Martin A. Ryerson Lecturer in Fine Arts in 1935. He retired from the museum in 1944.
The technical study of works of art was one of Forbes' most passionate interests. He founded the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies (now named the Straus Center for Conservation) in 1928; it was the first fine arts conservation treatment, research and training facility in the United States. Forbes received many awards and distinctions throughout his career, and he was named the first honorary fellow of the Institute of Conservation in 1958. Edward Forbes died in Belmont, Massachusetts on March 11, 1969.
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