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Collection on the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Identifier: M/A 0286

Description of Contents

The MIA Collection is organized into twelve boxes. Clippings comprise the first three boxes and feature newspaper articles on museum events, exhibitions, buildings, aquisitions, and more. Box 4 includes information guides and events calendars from 1922-2002, which provide general information on the museum, its programs, and its activities. Promotional material in boxes 5 and 6 includes invitations, flyers, brochures, mailers, and press releases advertising exhibitions and events. Pamphlets on classes, manuals for assiting teachers with art education, miscellaneous art fair guides, and member directories are included in box 7. Box 8 consists of annual reports and the final four boxes include exhibition catalogs and programs, and photographs and images of the museum.


  • 1911 - 2015

Access Restrictions

The collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department's open hours.


In 1883, The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts was founded. This society, composed of 25 members at the time, would eventually give rise to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). In 1911, Clinton Morrison donated the site for which the MIA was to be built upon in memory of his father, Dorilus Morrison. To choose the architect of the building, the Society held a competition led by Professor Laird of Pennsylvania University and the famous New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White won the contest with their neoclassical building design. The ground-breaking was held in 1913 and the Institute opened its doors on January 7, 1915.

The first director of the MIA was Joseph Breck, formerly of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY. One of the first exhibits at the MIA was a display of Swedish and Scandinavian art directly from the World’s Fair. Breck resigned in 1917 and John R. Van Derlip, who was the president of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, was acting director until Russell A. Plimpton, who had worked as Assistant Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was selected to fill the position in 1921.

The Friends of the Institute was founded January 20, 1922 in tribute to Mrs. Van Derlip. The goal of the Friends of the Institute was to seek to broaden the influence of the MIA by supporting and raising support for the museum. The Friends of the Institute hold annual fundraisers, the largest being their Art In Bloom festival, an annual event for which florists create flower arrangements based on works of art. The Friends of the Institute also host galas, lectures and special events for members.

In 1931, two rooms in the 18th century style from Charleston, South Carolina were added to the American art collections, marking the beginning of the period room collection. The MIA also featured exhibitions of local artists. In the mid-1930s, The Twin Cities Artists Union boycotted and picketed the Twin City exhibition at the Institute for not being reimbursed packing and shipping costs for their art, but the MIA conducted the exhibition as normal.

At the start of the 1940s, the MIA held a show featuring famous works from Pablo Picasso. Viewers of the exhibit had mixed reviews and many debates were started as to whether or not the paintings were considered art. The MIA also faced some financial issues at the start of the 1940s and appealed to members and friends of the Institute to give more. In 1944, to the delight of its patrons, the MIA unveiled its latest exhibit, a collection of miniature rooms featuring many different styles and eras. In 1947, the Museum started a sketch club for children to teach them about art.

$1,000,000 of rare Asian art was left to the MIA in the will of Alfred F. Pillsbury in 1950, becoming the most valuable private collection ever given to the Institute. The newly expanded Resource Library, which the Friends of the Institute played a big part in, opened its doors in November 1955. To celebrate the MIA's 40th year, the museum displayed 40 of its most choicest and expensive possessions. Russell A. Plimpton retired as director of the Institute in 1956 and was replaced by Richard S. Davis, who was then replaced by Sam Hunter in 1958.

Some trouble befell the Institute near the end of the 1950s. In 1958, two expensive jade pieces were stolen from the MIA, but were later recovered. In 1959 the Society of Fine arts was sued by Harry Kratzer, a New York art dealer, for not paying him his full amount of $115,000 for a sculpture supposedly done by Pierino DaVinci, the nephew of Leonardo. The Society said that the piece was a fake and that the Institute never even put it on display. The end of the decade ended well with the first Rose Fete being held in 1959.

Carl Weinhardt was named the new director of the MIA in 1960 when Sam Hunter asked to be relieved of his duties to shift his focus into the fields of scholarship, exhibitions, and publications. Also in 1960, the 18th century rooms were remodeled to make them more accurate for the era, and in 1962 the MIA opened its updated American Wing. In 1961, the museum received a collection from the daughter of James J. Hill worth $200,000. Weinhardt resigned in 1963 to become director of the Gallery of Modern Art in New York and was replaced by Anthony M. Clark.

In 1965 the MIA celebrated its 50th year with an entire year full of free activities, tours, and lectures for the public, culminating in a special 50th anniversary exhibition and festival. The Herschel V. Jones print Gallery, designed by architect George Rafferty opened in 1966, more than doubling the museum’s exhibition space. And in 1969 the Artmobile began traveling around the state of Minnesota teaching parents and children about art.

The MIA kicked off the new decade with a Rembrandt exhibition in 1970 and Art Deco of the 1920s and 1930s in 1971. Also in 1970, Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was selected to design the new expansion of the Institute and Italian designer Massimo Vignelli was selected to design the interior. Construction began in 1972 and the building opened in 1974. During the construction, the museum held its exhibitions in the IDS tower in downtown Minneapolis. Anthony M. Clark resigned as director in 1973 and was replaced by Samuel Sachs II.

The MIA changed its operating hours in 1976 and also started charging one dollar for admission, but visitors still flocked to the Institute. In 1977 the MIA had its 4th benefit auction entitled "Directors Choice." Between the ground breaking ceremony of 1972 and 1977, the MIA acquired nearly 5,000 works of art worth $10 million and in 1978 the museum’s staff selected the 100 most important works from the recent acquisitions for public display.

The early 1980s ushered in a variety of exhibitions, from 19th Century Italian art to Grant Wood paintings to the art of Scandinavia, the last of which brought two Scandinavian princesses to the MIA. In 1983, the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts celebrated its hundredth year with a huge party at the Institute. In 1985, Samuel Sachs II resigned as Director of the MIA and was replaced by Alan Shestack. In 1987, the MIA rebuilt and redecorated their period rooms in the name of historical accuracy. To the surprise of all, Alan Shestack resigned in 1987, and was replaced by Evan M. Maurer. In 1988, "Sweden, A Royal Treasury 1550-1700" was featured at the MIA, which displayed crown jewels from Sweden and was opened by Princess Christina of Sweden. In 1989, the institute displayed Chinese art directly from China and the exhibit included works that were rarely shown, even in China.

In 1991, with a goal of $50 million dollars, the MIA raised $52 million in a fund drive to help pay for a renovation. The renovation began in 1992 and would finish in 1997. Also in 1992, the institute acquired 26 rare jade sculptures from the T.B. Walker collection. A $5 million Monet was purchased in 1993 and became a main fixture at the institute.

The MIA broke ground in1996 for the last phase of its expansion project, which was scheduled to be completed in 1998. The Dayton family gave $10 million to the MIA in 1997, which at the time was the largest donation in its history. A Monet exhibition was a big draw for the Institute in 1998, as was the "Out of Africa" exhibit that same year. "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth," an exhibit featuring original props, costumes, drawings, and models from the film series, came to the MIA in 1999, also drawing large crowds.

In 2005, Evan M. Maurer retired as director and was replaced by William M. Griswold who then resigned in 2008 and was replaced by Kaywin Feldman, the first female director in the Institute's history. The final expansion, designed by Michael Graves, was completed in 2006 and named the Target Wing, after the Target Corporation, which gave a lead gift of more than $10 million. On November 4, 2008, Minnesotans passed the clean water, land, and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, which provides continued operation and program support for the MIA.

In 2015 the museum rebranded becoming Mia (pronounced Mee-ah), replacing the acronym MIA, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, instead of Arts.


5.17 Linear Feet (12 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

See also: The Society of Fine Arts Collection (M/A 0287).

Collection on the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Faith Kollar
July 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.