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Within this Collection:

Anna Brugh and William H. Singer, Jr.

Building on a dream: 1927-1933

Establishing a presence: 1933-1948

Two new wings: 1949 additions

An experiment in education: 1954-1960

Growing in the community: 1950 -1970

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Photographs and Prints

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

While many take for granted the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' place as a focal point of Hagerstown City Park,the Museum's very existence is remarkable and unlikely. A 1932 Baltimore Sun article explains the significance of this Museum's place in Hagerstown:
A Museum of Fine Arts, architecturally charming and filled with paintings and sculpture that would do credit to discriminating metropolitan institutions, is scarcely an orthodox appurtenance of a small inland American city which numbers its population at little more than 30,000 inhabitants. Such a possession, however, actually is the portion of Hagerstown and is the gift of a former resident, Mrs. William H. Singer, Jr., whose husband's reputation as a landscape painter of the first rank extends over two continents.
Diane of the Chase, Photographer: Raup

Anna Brugh Singer and her husband William H. Singer, Jr. founded the Museum because of Anna's love for her hometown of Hagerstown. Despite the fact that Anna had not lived in Hagerstown since her marriage to William in 1895, she longed to endow the area's residents with the cultural benefit of a Museum. The couple had lived abroad in Holland and Norway for most of their lives, and trips back to the United States were few in number.

A 1927-1928 visit to the United States, however, offered Anna the opportunity to propose her gift of a Museum building and foundational art collection. In March of 1928, the Singers hosted a large dinner party at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. A select group of Hagerstonians, including Mary Titcomb from the Washington County Free Library, was invited to the party, and it was afterwards that Anna proposed her idea for a Museum in Hagerstown. Mavin J. Hamilton, who went on to be President of the Museum's Board of Trustees, later reminisced on the process in the Museum's 25th anniversary publication:
It was a delightful and rare occasion, held at the Plaza Hotel and the forerunner of a red letter day in the annals of Hagerstown. The next morning, and for several days thereafter, our Hagerstown gourp assembled in the Singer apartment at the Plaza and it was then that they unfolded before us their plans to present Hagerstown and Washington County with a cultural center, or museum, broad in scope, embodying the dissemination of art consciousness in our city and county.
Back in Hagerstown the committee worked diligently to plan the details of the Museum's building and location and secure the annual maintenance funds from the city and county, a condition of the Singers' gift. The park location was selected and the land procured from the city. Architects Hyde & Shepherd designed a building that would sit nobly behind the lake and the cornerstone was placed on July 15, 1930. The Museum opened its doors to the public on September 16, 1931.

Since then the Museum's collection has grown to over 6,000 art objects and the building has been expanded twice, in 1949 and 1994. Thecollection's focus is American art, complemented by Old Master, European, African, and Asian art. The Museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1979 and is the only art museum in Western Maryland to hold this position of honor alongside the nation's most prestigious museums.

In preparation for its 75th anniversary in 2006, the Museum began in earnest its efforts to organize and examine its institutional archives. The Museum's archives house correspondence, publications, press clippings, and photographs from its seventy-five year history. The items in this collection were selected from the Museum's archives, supplemented with items from the collection of former Museum Director Bruce Etchison. These invaluable records help to reveal the history of the institution and its community.

This collection was a joint venture of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the Western Maryland Regional Library. More information on the Museum and its current exhibits can be found at http://www.wcmfa.org.

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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