The legacy of American financier John Pierpont Morgan is everywhere in New York. In addition to the pivotal and ruthless role he played on Wall Street, which included heading the firm that would become JP Morgan, he co-founded Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History and provided foundational holdings to institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Another of Morgan’s lasting legacies is now gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood, the Morgan Library & Museum has for nearly a century made its collection of rare manuscripts and prints available to the public.
Beginning in the 1890s, Morgan assembled a vast range of historical documents and Old Master artwork that he stored in a locked room in his basement. As the number of items overtook available space, he turned to something more permanent—a personal library across the street from his brownstone. In 1924, more than a decade after his death, his son J.P. Morgan, Jr. opened the cultural treasure as a public institution. While the Morgan Library & Museum has added to its collection and expanded over the decades, its colorful and luxuriously dense rooms continue to differentiate the historic Gilded Age mansion from the white-walled museums around the city.
The institution’s history will be brought to the forefront during the centennial programming planned for 2024, which includes an exhibition dedicated to the life of Bella da Costa Greene, the Morgan’s inaugural director. Described by the museum as “one of the most prominent librarians in American history,” Greene helped build the manuscript and book collections of both Morgan and his son.
Another show scheduled to celebrate the museum’s anniversary will focus on its Department of Photography, founded in 2012. Showing forty previously unexhibited works, it will explore themes like portraiture with images of prominent figures like Marcel Duchamp, Jack Kerouac and Yoko Ono.
Several promised gifts to the Morgan will also be on view in the various shows, including a compositional study for Rembrandt’s first painting from art collectors Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard. Other centennial-year exhibitions will feature the work of Beatrix Potter, the illustrator behind characters like Peter Rabbit, and literary manuscripts, correspondence, diaries and photos related to Franz Kafka.
While the Morgan receives around 250,000 visitors annually, it reaches seven million people online each year. Its digital initiatives for next year’s celebrations will include a video series launching in May of 2024 in which artists, writers, designers and actors will discuss how their practices have been influenced by the institution.
Fundraising for the next century
Alongside its visual programming, the Morgan is marking the significant anniversary with the launch of a $50 million fundraising campaign. The “Centennial Campaign” will focus on raising funds for its collection, campus and staff, with $35 million set aside for the institution’s endowment and $15 million earmarked to improve the Morgan’s facilities and technological infrastructure.
A $10 million lead gift has already been given by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. Money from the charitable organization, a longtime supporter of the Morgan, will be used to establish endowment funds for education and paper conservation, among other initiatives.
More programming will be announced in the coming months, including a “free public day of celebration” hosted by the institution in May of next year, coinciding with the seasonal opening of the museum’s garden. Other accessibility initiatives introduced in 2024 will include free admission for college students on the first Sunday of every month.