October 8, 2014

Two Major Gifts For Morven Museum To Bolster Endowment

Morven Museum & Garden has received two major grants designed to help strengthen the organization’s endowment. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has donated $1 million, half of which must be matched, and Princeton University is giving the historic site $100,000.

Both grants are to be announced Thursday evening at a reception for The Boudinot Society, which honors donors who support the museum at a significant level. The funding is especially welcome at a time when state support has been affected by the ups and downs of the economy.

“We are a private/public partnership with the State of New Jersey, and with the state budget issues, we have not been able to depend on their contributions,” said Barbara Webb, Morven’s Director of Development. “These grants will help us with our long-term sustainability as a museum.”

Both organizations have strong connections to Morven. “The Stockton family [original occupants of the house] was instrumental in the beginnings of Princeton University. Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was part of the first graduating class,” said Ms. Webb.

Marco Navarro, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, made note of the fact that General Robert Wood Johnson was once an occupant of the house and that it was the official residence of New Jersey governors from 1954 to 1982. “It plays a significant and central role in New Jersey’s rich historic and cultural heritage,” he said in an email. “Grants like this help us honor the legacy of our founder and help New Jersey institutions become or stay national leaders.”

Robert Wood Johnson’s portrait hangs on the museum’s first floor. “He is responsible for developing the back part of the property including the pool house, which has been restored,” Ms. Webb said. “He also installed the tennis court and the pool, which has been removed and will be replaced by a fountain on the same footprint.”

Kristin Appelget, Princeton University’s director of community and regional affairs, said the decision to fund Morven’s endowment was a logical one. “Given the very historical connections between Morven and Princeton University, we determined we wanted to support the campaign,” she said. “One of the most obvious connections between us is that some of the University Art Museum’s collection is at Morven on loan. And many residents of the house have had University connections.”

Nearly every item in Morven’s dining room is from the University museum and on long-term loan, said Ms. Webb. Several portraits in the house are also owned by the University museum.

Morven has 18 months to raise the $500,000 portion of the Johnson Foundation grant earmarked as a matching grant. “One reason the Foundation gave us this grant is that they recognize the value of a museum dedicated to interpreting the cultural heritage of New Jersey,” said Ms. Webb.