About the Coffey Award
Reprinted from the Museologist, No.125
Awards for outstanding service are too seldom given by organizations of the museum profession. It is true that occasionally persons in the field receive certificates of merit, plaques and sometimes, although very rarely, honorary degrees. As a rule, such awards when given are presented by chambers of commerce, service clubs, and once in a while, by colleagues and universities.
Unfortunately, however, our own profession has rarely regarded the contribution of its own notables.
Therefore, it was somewhat unusual that the Board of Governors of the Northeast Museums Conference (now MAAM) in May, 1972 agreed that nominations from a broad area be solicited for recognition of distinctive and worthy projects within the museums field. It was also decided that occasionally, when opportunity offered, a professional museum staff member should be cited for outstanding service to museology. The award, set up by the Conference, took the name of the late Katherine Coffey (1900-1972). She was one of the outstanding museum leaders and administrators of the nation.
A graduate of Barnard College in the class of 1922, she first joined the Newark Museum staff in 1923, left and returned in 1925 to remain on permanent basis until her retirement in 1968. She was in charge of all exhibitions and educational programs and directed an apprentice-training program from 1929 to 1942. During that period the course graduated 110 young people who later became associated with the staffs of museums all over the country. Many became prominent in their profession. In 1949, Miss Coffey became the Newark Museums fourth director, serving in that post 19 years. She had devoted 43 years of service to the museum when she retired in 1968. On her retirement the Newark Museum established the $100,000 Katherine Coffey Endowment Fund in her honor.
With this background of the honor as a basis it is more clearly evident why the action of the Conference was most appropriate when it conferred the first Katherine Coffey Award upon Hanna Toby Rose in 1972, who had just retired from the Brooklyn Museum.
Eligibility and Qualifications
Nominees should have worked as a paid museum professional for at least 10 years in a principal position. In addition, the nominee should have been employed in the Mid-Atlantic region during the period of principal contribution for which the award is being given. Nominees should demonstrate accomplishment in their role and a record of service to the profession on state, regional, national, and/or international levels. Nominees should also have a proven record of service to the community in which the museum is located.