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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF HISTORY, ART, AND SCIENCE

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Booklet authored by the Rev. W. G. Kessler. It was published by the Columbia Museum and Institute of Art.

COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF HISTORY, ART AND SCIENCE. Unparalleled collection of art in Dubuque assembled under the direction of Archbishop Francis J. L. BECKMAN. The museum began as a collection of Indian artifacts gathered by William G. Kessler, a young priest at COLUMBIA ACADEMY. With the encouragement of Beckman, the collection, named the Columbia Museum of History, Art, and Science in 1936, expanded to occupy the lower floor of the Science Hall. In 1938 it was claimed that the collections were worth a minimum of $1,500,000. There were over 170,000 exhibits by 1940. The museum curator found paintings held in the displays to include examples of the work of Winslow Homer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck.

Financial support for the museum came through the MIDWEST ANTIQUARIAN ASSOCIATION. Among members of this group was Eleanor Roosevelt who accepted an honorary membership in May of 1937.

The museum, like the Association, was renamed and became known as the Columbia Museum and Institute of Art. To pay for debts incurred by Beckman, many works of art were returned to him for use as collateral against interest-bearing notes that had been issued in his name. When financial irregularities in the archdiocese were discovered, pieces of the collection were offered for sale to priests and institutions of the archdiocese. An estimated one hundred thousand dollars was raised. New purchases of art were refused, and the museum was closed.