A private, nonprofit corporation, the Morris Museum’s mission is to elevate the cultural consciousness, excite the mind and enhance the quality of life by advancing the understanding and enjoyment of the visual and performing arts, natural and physical sciences and humanities through exhibitions, performances and educational programs in a welcoming, inclusive and creative environment that responsibly uses all museum resources, including stewardship of a permanent collection.
In 1913, objects collected for display in a curio cabinet at the Morristown Neighborhood House formed the beginning of the Morris Museum Collection. Originally known as the Morristown Children’s Museum, education has been an intrinsic part of the Museum’s mission from the start. Mrs. Aldus Pierson, the House’s first head worker, introduced children to world cultures through the exploration of cultural artifacts. Generous donors began giving Mrs. Pierson interesting objects that they had acquired in their travels around the world. By 1927, the collection had expanded to seven rooms encompassing the first floor of the Neighborhood House’s annex. Displays included colonial and 19th-century household articles, European, South American and Asian artifacts, rocks, minerals and fossils from around the world, and children’s toys.
In 1938, the Museum moved to the Maple Avenue School building and shared space with the Morristown Board of Education and the Morris Junior College until 1956. This enabled the Museum to enhance its programs for children and establish a link between its offerings and the curricula of area schools. This strong educational focus developed and continues to the present. The Museum was incorporated in 1946, and its collections and services continued to expand. During this time, the Museum was at the forefront of presenting new trends in museum education through the modern use of dioramas, panels and niches. The outreach education program began in 1950 with in-school presentations to eight Morris County schools including talks about American Indian culture.
The Museum’s first director, Mr. Chester H. Newkirk, made a significant impact on the development of the Museum’s programs, collections and services. During his 25 years of leadership (1956-1981), the collections of fine and decorative arts, toys, and American Indian artifacts were greatly enhanced. In 1964, having outgrown its fourth location, the Museum purchased Twin Oaks, the former Frelinghuysen estate. Today, the Georgian-style mansion functions as the heart of the Morris Museum’s operations. In 1969, the institution was renamed the Morris Museum of Arts and Sciences, reflecting its growing emphasis on visual art and the expansion of its offerings for all ages. In response to the Museum’s increasing activities, successful capital campaigns enabled additions to the facility to be built. In 1970, gallery space was expanded and a 312-seat theatre was added, which was later named the Bickford Theatre. In 1973, the Morris Museum became the first museum in New Jersey to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 1985, its name was changed to the Morris Museum. In 1990, the Museum complex was further expanded to 75,524 square feet.
The Morris Museum is the only museum in New Jersey with a professional theatre that produces and presents professional productions of musicals, dramas, comedies, and mysteries; year-round children’s theatre; a jazz series; a blues series, and special concerts and performances. Affiliation with Actors’ Equity Association and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers makes it possible for distinguished stars, professional actors and stage managers to work at the Bickford.
In 2003, the Museum was awarded the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection, one of the world’s most important collections of mechanical musical instruments and automata (robotic figures of animals and people). This collection further enhances the Morris Museum’s role as a major cultural center and travel destination for the arts, sciences and humanities. This 750-object collection reflects innovative technology, exquisite craftsmanship, compelling sound and important cultural heritage. In recognition of what is the Museum’s most renowned collection, the Museum launched a major capital expansion project that resulted in a 5,000 square foot gallery devoted to showcasing the history of mechanical music and automata, a grand Entrance Pavilion, and a sky-lighted Court and expanded upper galleries.
Today, the Morris Museum is the third largest museum in New Jersey and one of the State’s most dynamic cultural institutions, serving more than 350,000 persons each year, including 100,000 children. Audiences are drawn from fifteen counties throughout the state and reflect the social-economic and ethnic spectrum that define northern and central New Jersey.
In 2008, the Museum was named Outstanding Arts Organization by the Arts Council of the Morris Area, in recognition of its exceptional accomplishments and commitment to improving the quality of life in the community through the arts. The Morris Museum has been recognized as a Major Arts Institution by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State (2006-2012 seven consecutive years) in recognition of the Museum’s solid history of artistic excellence, substantial programming and broad public service. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts further distinguished the Morris Museum by bestowing the Council’s Citation of Excellence (2007-2012 six consecutive years). Under the leadership of Executive Director Linda Moore and a committed Board of Trustees, the Morris Museum continues to be recognized as a leading cultural institution in the state, upholding the highest standards of artistic excellence, educational innovation, fiscal responsibility, community engagement, audience impact, and leadership in the arts community.
Lauded for her live performances, Alea infuses Latin and pop rhythms to create a signature jazz style all her own, moving her audiences with messages of spirit, mindfulness, and activism.?Making her debut on the Morris Museum’s Back Deck on…Read More »
Morris Museum Announces Exhibition of Federico Solmi’s Work that Features VR and Video Installations and New Mixed Media Works (Morristown, NJ, July 2022)—Federico Solmi: Joie De Vivre?is the first exhibition to explore the…Read More »
(Morristown, NJ – April 2022) – Returning after a COVID related pause, the popular AutomataCon is a convention of and for artists, collectors, historians, and enthusiasts of automatons and related kinetic art. This three-day event is…Read More »
Art in the Atrium to celebrate 30th anniversary with Morris Museum exhibit From the Morris Museum: Morris Museum to partner with Art in the Atrium on 30th Anniversary Exhibition Celebrating Three Decades of Black Art, Activism, and Achievement …Read More »
Morristown, NJ, - Erik Bergrin: The 8 Dissolutions is a fiber-sculpture installation by New York City-based artist and costume maker Erik Bergrin. A student of Buddhist philosophy, Bergrin explores the transience of the human body and the eternity…Read More »
The Partnership will increase the Museum's educational reach by 5,000 students (Morristown, NJ — January 2022) — The Morris Museum announced today its partnership with the New Jersey Consortium for Gifted and Talented Program (NJCGTP)…Read More »
Morristown, NJ-The Morris Museum announced today that it has appointed Andrew Sandall to be the next President & CEO, succeeding Dr. Cleveland Johnson, who will retire at the end of the year. Edward von der Linde, Chair of the Board of Trustees,…Read More »
Morristown, NJ - Stowed Away: A Traveling Philographist and His Arctic Uke explores the story behind the ukulele that "stowed-away" on Admiral Richard Byrd's North-Pole flight of 1926. Featuring Richard Konter’s original ukulele alongside its…Read More »
Morristown, NJ -- On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey is the first museum exhibition to examine the duality of New Jersey artists whose creative versatility extends from the street to the studio. Although their outdoor murals are more…Read More »