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THE MAKING OF THE MELLON CENTER AT YALE

In February 1972 Yale University unveiled the architect’s model and plans for construction of the new building for the Paul Mellon Center for British Art and British Studies, which will house the Mellon collections of British art and rare books that have been promised to the University.

The first story of the four-story structure designed by Louis I. Kahn will be given over mostly to commercial use. The upper three stories will include extensive public exhibition space for paintings, watercolors, and drawings; a rare book library of about 30,000 volumes; a print room housing about 20,000 drawings and prints; a research library of about 10,000 volumes with a reading room and a photographic archive; a lecture room seating 200 people; a conservation laboratory for paper; and various seminar rooms, offices, work areas, a lunchroom and a photographic studio. The Center will be located across the street from the Yale Art Gallery, also designed by Kahn and constructed twenty years ago.

Professor Jules D. Prown, art historian on the Yale faculty, was appointed the Center’s director in 1968 and has been supervising the architectural designs and the plans for the educational and cultural programs. The academic program recommended for the Center by the committee that planned it seeks “to unify various disciplines now usually segmented into departments of study. . . . We would hope to bring together a group of scholars whose interest in British art, from various points of view, would lead to a cross-fertilization of minds. Such a program, for example, would have particular value for scholars trained in the fields of literature and history who wish to broaden their knowledge through a period of study in the field of British art.” Consequently, the committee has called for the establishment of a professorship in British art and a new undergraduate major in British Studies. Under study is a program of fellowships and grants-in-aid for visiting scholars, including funds for one or two distinguished scholars, several young scholars working on post-doctoral projects, and a number of grants-in-aid for short-term visitors. Henry Berg, Assistant Director of the Center, says that the future program is still under discussion, and that “the main thrust of the Center will be to combine the study and enjoyment of the works of art and rare books in Mr. Mellon’s collection with the pursuit of studies in related non-art-historical fields. We hope the Center will be an interdisciplinary one, weaving together literature, history, art and other fields of interest in a new way.”

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