The great museums of America, most of which were founded in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, embody the bold vision of this country as it celebrated the first hundred years of its independence. Thus in 1895 the citizens of Brooklyn watched the lading of the cornerstone for what was intended to be the largest museum structure in the world, housing comprehensive collections of art, natural history, and science as well as education and research facilities. In the event, the growth of The Brooklyn Museum was somewhat more modest, and the scale of its magnificent building by McRim. Mead & White somewhat smaller than originally intended. But in the remarkable collections it went on to assemble, the boldness of its original vision is still evident, as is the diligence of its staff and the generosity of its patrons.
Today The Brooklyn Museum owns over a million objects from just about every field of human creativity. It has one of the finest collections of Egyptian art and artifacts in the world; an unrivaled collection of costumes; period rooms demonstrating important American interior design styles; and renowned collections of Oriental as well as Western art. Its masterpieces span millennia and continents: an Egyptian mummy cartonnage from the XXII dynasty, a seated Buddha from third-century India, a gold lime container from Colombia made almost a thousand years ago are displayed in the same museum that can offer us prints by Diirer. Whistler, and Picasso: paintings by Pissarro. Cole, and O’Reeffe: and photographs by Steichen, Bourke-White, and Strand.
Masterpieces in The Brooklyn Museum reproduces two hundred of the finest objects in the Museum. Short essays prepared by the curators accompany the reproductions. In addition. Linda S. Ferber, chief curator, has contributed an introductory history of the growth of the collections. Thus the reader is given both an exciting tour of a great museum and an inspiring and revealing picture of the human impulse to create and to preserve.