Gertrude Herdle Moore

Gertrude Herdle, MAG Archives

Born October 16, 1896, Gertrude Herdle was the elder daughter of George L. Herdle, who became the first director of the Gallery when it was founded in 1913. She began working at the Gallery while attending the University of Rochester, from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1918.

Upon her father’s untimely death in 1922, Gertrude began her 40-year tenure as the museum’s second director. At 25 years old, she was the youngest museum director in the country, one of only three women in such positions. She was one of the first women to hold membership in the Association of Art Museum Directors and the first woman to receive an honorary master of arts degree from the University of Rochester.

Like her father before her, Mrs. Moore initially served not only as director but also as head of education and museum publicist. More importantly, she had sole responsibility during those early years for raising funds to help the Gallery thrive.

In facing the financial challenges, she became adept at encouraging gifts. She had inherited her father’s friendship with Mrs. Samuel Gould, whose daughter, Marion, had died at twelve. Out of that friendship, the Marion Stratton Gould Fund was created in 1938 and remains to this day the Gallery’s chief source of acquisition funds.

“Without purchasing funds,” Mrs. Moore once said, “there could be no consistent development of the collection. In making out a list of wished-for accessions, we just laughed when we added an Assyrian sculpture. Because of its rarity, we knew that this would be an impossible dream. But now we have one.”

With her sister, Isabel, as her chief curator, Mrs. Moore was responsible for transforming the infant Gallery into an important museum. On a shoestring budget with few major supporters, the sisters developed a collection spanning 5,000 years and representing diverse cultures.

Mrs. Moore determined early on that the Gallery should be for everyone. Under her leadership, the Gallery became a model for community participation with one of the highest memberships per capita in the country. She also introduced innovative programs for children and adults. An early champion of activities for schoolchildren, Mrs. Moore began holding story hours and handing out paper and crayons to engage young Gallery visitors. From these beginnings evolved such successful educational programs as the Creative Workshop.

Gertrude Herdle Moore retired as Gallery director in 1962. In 1986, she and her sister Isabel Herdle were honored by the Rochester Chamber of Commerce with the Culture and Arts Civic Award. In 1990 they received a special citation for their contributions from Arts for Greater Rochester.