Robert Moffat Bruce (1822 –1909), 1882
by M. D. Holt
Chalk and charcoal on photograph
Bruce Museum collection
Bruce Museum, ca. 1916
Bruce Museum today
The Bruce Museum was originally built as a private home in 1853 for lawyer, clergyman and historian Francis Lister Hawks.
Robert Moffat Bruce (1822-1909), a wealthy textile merchant and member of the New York Cotton Exchange, bought the house and property in 1858. In 1908, Robert Moffat Bruce deeded his property to the Town of Greenwich, stipulating that it be used as “a natural history, historical, and art museum for the use and benefit of the public." The first exhibition ever at the Bruce Museum took place in 1912 and featured works by local artists known as the Greenwich Society of Artists, several of whom were members of the Cos Cob Art Colony.
The Museum served as home base for the Greenwich Society of Artists hosting its Annual Exhibition from 1912 through 1926. The Cos Cob School is now well established as an important part of the history of American painting, and it forms the nucleus of the Museum's holdings of painting, watercolors, sketchbooks, and notebooks by such artists as Leonard and Mina Ochtman, George Wharton Edwards, and Hobart Jacobs.
Over the years, the community, through its generosity, has built the Museum collection to nearly 15,000 objects representing the arts and sciences. Paralleling an interest in Connecticut painters and their paintings, early directors of the Bruce Museum, such as Ray Owens, Paul Howes, and Jack Clark, pursued the development of the natural sciences, building particular strengths in the mineral and avian collections.
In 1992, the Bruce Museum undertook a complete renovation of its 139-year-old building. Reopened in September 1993, the redesigned Bruce is an architectural model of museum quality.
In 1998 the Bruce Museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, an honor granted to fewer than 5% of all museums.
Sitting high on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor, the Bruce Museum offers a changing array of exhibitions and educational programs that promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science.
The Bruce Museum has been voted the best museum in Fairfield County for the past five years, a recognition of its growing popularity and efforts to consistently address new subjects of remarkable beauty or great interest with new insights, The Bruce plays an integral role in the cultural life of area residents and attracts approximately 100,000 visitors annually, reaching out to families, seniors, students, the handicapped, at-risk children, and community organizations. The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, presents more than a dozen new exhibitions in art and science every year.