Benjamin Ives Gilman

Benjamin Ives Gilman (1852–1933) was the Secretary of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts from 1893 to 1925.

Benjamin Ives Gilman
Benjamin ives gilman.jpg
Gilman, about 1880
Born(1852-02-19)February 19, 1852
DiedMarch 18, 1933(1933-03-18) (aged 81)
EducationWilliams College, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University
EmployerMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston
Known forMuseum administrator, theorist
Spouse(s)Cornelia Moore Dunbar

Benjamin Ives Gilman was born in New York in 1852, the son of Winthrop Sargent Gilman and the former Abia Swift Lippincott.[1] He attended Williams College (class of 1872) but did not graduate on account of health problems. He then joined his family’s banking business. In 1880 he received a Masters from Williams and the next year he entered the Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University as a philosophy student, focusing on mathematics and logic. He studied with Charles Sanders Peirce, one of the founders of modern mathematical logic. As "B.I. Gilman" he authored a paper published in Peirce's 1883 Studies in Logic.

Gilman left Johns Hopkins after one year to study in Germany, and did not return, citing health reasons.[citation needed] He became a student of William James at the Philosophy Department of Harvard University, enrolling there 1883-1885, and specializing in aesthetics, and especially the aesthetics of music. Between 1890 and 1892, he taught courses in the psychology of music at Colorado College, Harvard,[2] Princeton, and Columbia.[3][4] He undertook experimental research on expressiveness in music[5] and studied "primitive music," making some of the first recordings and analyses of recordings of Native American music. He also wrote on Chinese music, visiting New York's Chinatown to make recordings. His recordings of music from Fijian, Samoan, Uvean, Javanese, Turkish and other performers at the Columbian Exposition are at the Library of Congress.[6] In 1892 Gilman became an instructor in psychology at Clark University. There he taught a course on the Psychology of Pain and Pleasure.[7]

In 1893 Gilman was hired as Curator and Librarian at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he would work for his entire career. He held a variety of titles, including curator (1893-1894?); Librarian (1893-1904); Assistant Director, 1901-1903); and Temporary Director (1907); but for almost the entire time he had the title Secretary (1894-1925), with responsibility for publications and advising the Director and the Board. In his remarks to the board and in his publications he would urge art museums to display masterpieces of art, not reproductions, and make it easy for the visitor to engage with them; to consider the visitor's comfort (he coined the term "museum fatigue"); and to focus on aesthetics, not on art history. He also introduced docents to the museum, coining that word. His major publication Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1918) is an extended argument for this idea of the museum.[8]

He was the author of:

  • "Operations in Relative Number with Applications to the Theory of Probabilities", Studies in Logic (1883), C. S. Peirce, ed., pp. 107–125. Google Books Eprint. Internet Archive Eprint.
  • Manual of Italian Renaissance Sculpture (1904). Google Books Eprint. Internet Archive Eprint.
  • Hopi Songs (1908). Google Books Eprint. A Traditional Music Library Eprint (which Website says "circa 1891" but that's when Gilman began his research on the subject). Internet Archive Eprint.
  • Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1918). Google Books Eprint. Internet Archive Eprints.
  • "The Paradox of the Syllogism Solved by Spatial Construction", Mind, New Series, v. 32, n. 125 (Jan., 1923), pp. 38–49 (12 pages). JSTOR Eprint.

as well as many other articles on a wide range of philosophical, mathematical, political, and museological topics.


  1. ^ Alexander William Gillman, Gillman (1895). Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family. E. Stock. benjamin ives gilman.
  2. ^ Harvard University. Annual reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College. 1890-1891, Appendix -- Appointments.
  3. ^ Alexander William Gillman, Gillman (1895). Searches Into the History of the Gillman Or Gilman Family. E. Stock. benjamin ives gilman.
  4. ^ DeVale, Sue Carole (2001). "Gilman, Benjamin Ives". Grove Music Online. 1. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.11150. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  5. ^ Benjamin Ives Gilman, “Report on an Experimental Test of Musical Expressiveness,” The American Journal of Psychology 4, no. 4 (1892): 558.
  6. ^ Benjamin Ives Gilman, Jesse Walter Fewkes, and Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition, Zuni Melodies (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1891), 68; Benjamin Ives Gilman, “On Some Psychological Aspects of the Chinese Musical System,” The Philosophical Review 1, no. 1 (1892): 54–78.
  7. ^ Benjamin Ives Gilman, “Syllabus of Lectures on the Psychology of Pain and Pleasure,” The American Journal of Psychology 6, no. 1 (1893)
  8. ^ Lubar, Steven (Summer 2017). "Looking through the Skiascope: Benjamin Gilman and the Invention of the Modern Museum Gallery". Panorama. 3 (1). Retrieved 10 August 2017.