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October 3, 1937

The Social Museum opened in Blodgett Hall. Long a hope of Lucy Maynard Salmon, the museum came into being with the aid of a $4,000 gift from the Associate Alumnae for curriculum research. While the first exhibition, “Development of Housing in New York City,” was drawn from work done by the Works Projects Administration for the New York Housing Authority, it exemplified the methodology of the later projects developed at Vassar.

Drawing directions of research and for scholarship from many departments and on local communities—Poughkeepsie or Dutchess County—for subjects and data, the museum, as it’s director, Eleanor Dunning ’34, explained to The New York Times was both a resource for students and part of their academic programs. “Just as a student uses the college library…for the study of English…and gets credit from the English department, so she can use the social museum to prepare topics in history, economics, sociology, political science, religion, English, art, architecture or music and get credit through the particular department in which she is working….”

President MacCracken wrote, of the project: “While the social museum is primarily designed as a laboratory for the training of Vassar undergraduates in techniques of handling local materials, it may well become a center of general education, and thus perform a service which every college, whether primarily public or not, should seek to render to its community in return for the many privileges it receives.”

The New York Times

The last exhibition prepared by the Social Museum was presented in May 1951.

The Years