Peter C. Marzio, a Washington museum professional with strong academic credentials has been named director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Marzio, 35, who has worked at the Smithsonian Institution since 1969, most recently as the Museum of History and Technology's curator of prints.
His Corcoran appointment, which ends a lengthy search, is effective July 1.
The gallery has not had a director since Roy Slade resigned last May.
Numerous art museums, most ecently the Metropolitan, have given their top jobs not to art professionals but to businessmen-administrators. The Corcoran has tried that - with Aldus H. Chapin, Vincent Melzac, and then, most successfully, Gilbert H. Kinney, who has served as acting chief executive since the departure of Slade. With Marzio's appointment, the Corcoran takes a different tack.
He will not arrange shows. Under his direction, the gallery will remain the responsibility of chief curator Jane Livingston while dean Peter Thomas operates the school.
No previous Corcoran director has had more experience in academia. Marzio has two fields - American history and the history of art. At the University of Chicago, he wrote a pair of papers for his M.A. degree, one on the Revolutionary era paintings of John Trumbull, the other on FDR's attempt to pack the Supreme Court.
His doctoral thesis, too, dealt with history and art.He wrote on the democratization of 19th-century American art (in Europe art had been the province of the aristocracy and the Church, but in America that changed) It was written for two scholars, both well known in Washington.
One, an art historian, was Joshua C. Taylor, now the highly regarded director of the National Collection of Fine Arts. The other, a historian, was Daniel J. Boorstin, now Librarian of Congress.
Marzio did research for "The Americans: The Democratic Experience," which won Boorstin the 1973 Pulitzer Prize. Marzio also has written on Rube Goldberg, John J. Audubon, and cartoonist Thomas Nast.
As an associate professor at the University of Maryland, Marzio has taught courses in "The History of American Culture 1607-1865" and in the history of graphic arts. The Corcoran has a strong historical collection.
"In my opinion a museum fails if it does not interest the scholarly community," he said. "We are also the one museum in town where local artists should exhibit. We'll show student work. And we're a museum of modern art. These missions must be balanced. First we must reaise money. It's a chicken-and-egg problem. You can't do anything if you don't have money, and if you don't do anything you can't raise dough."
Kinney has strengthened the Corcoran in numerous ways, particularly financially. Since January 1977 the private institution has raised $1.1 million, and now runs in the black.
Kinney said he will "take the summer off, relax, and plan ahead," before returning to the Corcoran board as a life trustee. "What I've learned sitting on the staff side of the table will serve me very well as a trustee," he said.a trustee," he said.