The Gilman Paper Company Photography Collection
With the help of world-renowned curator Pierre Apraxine, Howard spent twenty years acquiring what artist and collector John Waddell described as “the finest comprehensive private collection of photography ever to be assembled or that ever will be assembled.” The collection included 8,500 photographs from the 19th to mid-20th century.
In 1993, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted 250 images from the Gilman collection in an exhibition titled “The Waking Dream.” It was heralded by John Russell of the New York Times as an “event of cardinal importance in the museum world” and one which “bears at every point the mark of an original, resourceful and unprejudiced curiosity.”
In 1997, the Met opened the Howard Gilman Gallery, its first permanent space dedicated to photography, and in 2005, it acquired the entire Gilman collection.
Art collecting might seem to be a self-gratifying but meaningless hoarding if the collector were not sustained by the idea that he is only the transitory custodian of treasures it is his duty to preserve. He can be responsible to his personal pleasure only to the degree that he is able to share it with and preserve it for others.