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Monday, July 25, 2011

End of an era at Brandywine River Museum as longtime director Jim Duff retires

CHADDS FORD — Jim Duff tells an illustrative story about the Brandywine River Museum — where he has been its one and only director since its humble beginnings in a 19th-century grist mill 37 years ago — that embodies remarkable foresight, he believes.

"When I came here in 1973, the Brandywine River Museum was in poor financial shape," he explained. "An important painting, 'On the Brandywine 1862' by landscape painter Edward Moran, was offered at auction for under $3,000. I didn't see how we could buy it, given that we were 90 days behind on our phone and electric bills.

"But our trustees, when approached about it, said we had to."

So buy it the Brandywine River Museum did — a purchase that turned into a linchpin for the museum's future acquisitions, Duff said during a recent interview from his office in the museum, housed in a vastly expanded 19th-century brick grist mill on Route 1.

"(The Moran painting) is the first painting we acquired that hints at the richness of the Brandywine School of Painting," he explained. "There were so many more artists than we knew about at the time who used the Brandywine and its surrounding countryside as artistic inspiration."

This is one of many stories Duff tells about his tenure as di

rector of the museum and also as executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy, a job he assumed in 1976.

The 67-year-old Duff's long career at the museum will end at the end of 2011 when he will retire, he announced earlier this month.

The Brandywine Conservancy began in 1967 to protect two parcels of land in Chadds Ford from industrial development. Since then, it has developed a variety of innovative programs to conserve the natural and cultural resources of the Brandywine watershed and other selected areas, with a primary emphasis on water quality and quantity.

Duff, who lives in Chadds Ford with his wife, Sally, said that his time heading the museum and conservancy "is a nice brace of dates, a set of bookends. I love this place and I've watched it grow in ways I could not have dreamed." Continued...