Birthed as the William Hayes Ackland Art Center, the Ackland Art Museum turns sixty today. The art center held a special preview for UNC faculty on Friday evening, September 19, 1958. The official dedication ceremony took place the next morning, featuring a talk titled, “The Role of the College Museum in America” by S. Lane Faison, head of the art department and director of the art museum at Williams College in Massachusetts. The opening exhibition was a composition of paintings, prints, etchings, drawings, and sculptures from the collections of several college and university art museums across the country.
The university slated Joseph Curtis Sloane, then at Bryn Mawr College, to become chairman of the Art Department and director of the new art center.
William D. Carmichael Jr., Vice President and Financial Officer of The University of North Carolina, accepted the building on behalf of the consolidated university.
Care to learn more about the Ackland’s origins? The Daily Tar Heel covered the story, including the background of the William Hayes Ackland bequest and the works of art in the opening exhibition on September 18th in advance of the dedication ceremony, and reported on the formal opening on September 21st.
On this day in 1958: Capping an 18-year legal struggle, the Ackland Art Museum is dedicated at the University of North Carolina. As specified in his bequest, the museum’s benefactor, William Hayes Ackland, is interred within the building with a recumbent statue on his marble sarcophagus.
When he died in 1940, Ackland, a Washington lawyer, left $1,395,000 to Duke University for an art museum. The school’s trustees declined — reportedly out of the belief that the sarcophagi and recumbent statues of three Dukes in the Duke Memorial Chapel were ample. UNC and Rollins College, Ackland’s second and third choices in an earlier will, were left to wage a long court struggle over the bequest. UNC — whose lawyers were not above arguing that that Duke and UNC were “alike as two peas in a pod” — finally won out.