Fleming Museum of Art

The Fleming Museum of Art is a museum of art and anthropology located at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. The museum's collection includes some 25,000 objects from a wide variety of eras and places. Until 2014, the museum was known at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum.[1]

According to the Vermont Encyclopedia, the museum is a cultural center for the community and "attracts a diverse audience from UVM, area colleges, and the general public."[2] The current director of the museum is Janie Cohen.[3]


Rickshaw driver picking up two clients, circa 1909. This is a photo-postcard from a trip to Japan that Katherine Wolcott and her uncle, Robert Hull Fleming, made in 1909.

The University of Vermont began to acquire a collection of art, artifacts, and other objects in 1826, when a society of faculty and others formed the College of Natural History, a society separate from the University but housing its collections at the Old Mill building on the University Green, in order to begin "the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge in every department of natural history, and the accumulation of books, instruments and all materials which can advance these ends." Among the museum's initial collections were "fossils, stuffed birds, a sperm whale tooth, and a cannon ball that a local resident found while gardening."[4]

When the collection outgrew its Old Mill space, it was relocated to Torrey Hall in 1862. Less than ten years later a third story was built at Torrey Hall for the university's fine arts collection, and the space became known as the Park Gallery of Fine Arts. The collection remained at Torrey Hall in the late 1920s, when it was outgrowing its space there.[4]

The formation of the modern Fleming Museum of Art came in 1929, when Katherine Wolcott, the niece and only heir of Robert Hull Fleming and an artist herself, traveled from Chicago to Burlington, intending to establish a scholarship in honor of her late uncle, who had graduated from the University of Vermont in 1862 before becoming a wealthy Chicago grain merchant. Wolcott met with university president Guy Bailey, who proposed a new museum building in memory of Fleming. Wolcott accepted Bailey's proposal and donated $150,000 for the construction of the Fleming Museum. Soon afterward, the museum received another large contribution from James B. Wilbur of Manchester, Vermont, who donated $100,000 and his large collection of books and papers - including the papers of Ethan Allen - related to the history of Vermont to the museum.[4] These two gifts funded the $300,000 cost of construction the museum, and Wolcott donated an additional $150,000 for an endowment soon after.[4] The university was one of the first to include a room specifically for children, and placed an emphasis on community service and education, including free movies, lectures, and workshops every Saturday, a traveling exhibit program for schools, and an adult education program with evening lectures and classes. The museum states that in the mid-1930s between 25,000–30,000 people visited the Fleming Museum annually, at a time when the population of Burlington was estimated at 27,000.[4]

The museum also affected the University of Vermont. The university's studio art and art history departments began at the Fleming Museum of Art, and in the 1950s, the museum director was likewise the chair of the university's Art Department. In the 1950s, the university shifted the museum's focus to make it an art museum, and many original artifacts from "cabinet of curiosities" were moved to a number of university departments to free space for newly acquired objects.[4]

A $1.4 million renovation to the museum was completed in 1984.[4]


The Fleming Museum includes several collections:

Museum architecture

The Fleming Museum building was designed by William Mitchell Kendall of McKim, Mead & White, a prominent New York City architectural firm in the early 20th century. Several other University of Vermont campus buildings were designed by McKim, Mead & White, the earliest being the Ira Allen Chapel (1926) with the last being the Waterman Building (1940–41). The Fleming Museum building is in the Colonial Revival style with red bricks and boarding wood trim bordered white. Architectural elements in the museum building include pediments, pilasters, entablatures, and balustrades.[4]

The Marble Court was the museum's original entrance, and includes a two-story central courtyard with columns supporting a balcony on the second floor. The concept was the idea of the museum's first benefactor Katherine Wolcott, who drew a sketch of the design based on the Isaac Delgado Art Museum, which is now the New Orleans Museum of Art. William Mitchell Kendall had built a similar space for the Cohen Memorial Fine Arts Building at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. The Marble Court uses marble from Italy, France, and Vermont for the grand staircase, columns, and floors of the space.[4]

A second important space in the museum is the Wilbur Room, which includes walnut wall paneling, a groin-vaulted white plaster ceiling with decorative scrolls with the names Ira Allen, Thomas Chittenden, Ethan Allen, and Stephen R. Bradley, four people who influenced Vermont's early history. The room also has an enormous brass chandelier.[4] The Wilbur Room is named after Museum benefactor James B. Wilbur of Manchester, Vermont, and the room originally housed Wilbur's collection of historical manuscripts, whilewere later moved to the university's Bailey/Howe Library and today are the foundation of the Library's Special Collections.[4]

Renovations to the museum in 1984 reoriented the building's entrance, moving it from the front to the rear of the building and making it handicapped-accessible, and include building additions designed by the Watertown, Massachusetts-based Crissman and Solomon Associates. New additions included a climate control system, corridor display cases, a new reception area, a museum store, and an altered gallery floor plan that allowed made exhibition space more flexible. The renovations preserved the original building's brick rear wall as an interior wall of this addition.[4]


  1. "About the Museum." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  2. Ann Porter, "Fleming Museum," The Vermont Encyclopedia, eds. John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand, and Ralph H. Orth (UPNE, 2003).
  3. "Staff and Advisors." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Architecture and History." Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont.
  5. "The Collection: African." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  6. "The Collection: American." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  7. "The Collection: Ancient." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  8. "The Collection: Asian." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  9. "The Collection: European." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  10. "James B. Petersen Memorial Gallery of Native American Cultures," Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  11. "The Collection: Native American." Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont.
  12. "The Collection: Oceanic." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.
  13. "The Collection: Pre-Columbian." Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont.

External links

Coordinates: 44°28′50″N 73°11′56″W / 44.48059°N 73.19900°W / 44.48059; -73.19900

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