Albert E. Parr, seen here in his early days as an Oceanographic Scientist and Professor at Yale, became the fifth, and youngest ever (age 41), Director of the American Museum of Natural History in 1942. The first few years of his seventeen-year tenure were marked by the difficulties of operating a public institution during war time, but following the War’s conclusion, Parr established his commitment to scientific research by increasing the role it played at the Museum. He was highly respected amongst the scientists at the museum and in a touching memo (well, as touching as a memo can be) from 1958, long-time Museum biologist Lester Aronson praised Parr for his “wisdom, foresight, and initiative” in his duties as the Director. Aronson noted that the scientific staff “especially appreciate the autonomy he has given the various science departments,” and he continued, “our reputation as the most progressive Natural History Museum in the country is largely a result of this positive and constructive policy. We are indeed fortunate in being a part of the organization operating under his able leadership.” The following year, Dr. Parr’s commitment to scientific research led him to become the first Museum director to step down from administrative duties in order to continue his research work. My work with Parr’s collection revealed a surprising lack of material related to his specialties in oceanography and ichthyology, and instead I discovered that he held a profound interest in a variety of aspects of urban design. Beginning in the late fifties and continuing to the early seventies, Parr published a number of articles on different aspects of urban life, from its psychological effect on humans to the museum’s role in the urban fabric. While this collection is somewhat small, it’s certainly holds plenty of fascinating material for anyone interested in the museum’s history during the post-war years or urban theory of the sixties.

3 Responses to Dr. Albert E Parr Museum Director 1942-1959

  1. Nils Albert Parr says:

    That’s my Dad.

    • Tom Norris says:

      When I was a college freshman, your Dad spoke at a symposium on urban design at Clark University in 1965. He talked about the lovability of cities. I’ve always remembered that. I later became an urban planner.

  2. Joe Kish says:

    Dr. Parr wrote a marvelous paper titled: The Problem of Arrested Movement in Static Exhibits. It’s a must read for every taxidermist who wants to avoid theatrical drama in his work. It’s in the museum’s archives.