The Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) solicits contributions in honor of the life and legacy of Charles P. Parkhurst (OC ’38) to an endowed art conservation fund in his name. Throughout his career, the preservation and study of high quality works of art was always at the forefront of Mr. Parkhurst’s efforts. As a tribute, many of his students, colleagues and friends – as well as those who did not know him, but appreciate the great importance of preserving the treasures of the past – set up the Charles P. Parkhurst Art Conservation Fund, to care for works in the AMAM collection. The Parkhurst Fund provides a consistent base of funding to help the museum support the preservation of original works of art.
Please contact the Office of the Director at 440-775-8665 to contribute to the Charles Parkhurst Art Conservation Fund. Your donation is greatly appreciated.
Charles P. Parkhurst, a distinguished art historian, museum director and seminal figure in the history of Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum, died June 25, 2008 at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts. He was 95.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Parkhurst attended grammar school and high school in Oberlin and earned his MA in art history from Oberlin College in 1938, studying under the legendary Clarence Ward. At Mr. Ward’s urging, Mr. Parkhurst went on to earn his MFA at Princeton University in 1941. During World War II, Mr. Parkhurst served as one of the “Monuments Men,” a team of art historians and curators tasked with tracking down works of art lost or stolen during the war. Mr. Parkhurst was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government for his work in restoring French art to its rightful owners.
In 1949, Mr. Parkhurst became head of Oberlin’s Department of Art and Professor of the History and Appreciation of Art, as well as director of the AMAM. He held those posts until 1962. Many of the AMAM’s most renowned paintings and sculptures were acquired during Mr. Parkhurst’s tenure as director. He is still widely remembered for recommending the purchase of the AMAM’s undoubted masterpiece, the Hendrick ter Brugghen painting, St. Sebastian Tended by Irene.
While at Oberlin, Mr. Parkhurst also co-founded the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA), in 1952, which was located on the Oberlin College campus for decades, before it relocated to Cleveland in 2003. The ICA was the nation’s first non-profit regional art conservation center.In 1962, Mr. Parkhurst became director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, a post he held until 1970. As president of the American Association of Museums from 1966 to 1968, he developed an accreditation system for museums similar to the one used by universities. He was named assistant director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Art in 1970, as the museum prepared to break ground for the construction of its East Building. After retiring from the National Gallery in 1983, Mr. Parkhurst taught and held museum positions at Williams College and Smith College.