A Fond Farewell: Bruce MacLeish

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Augusta Chronicle, 08/27/00

For anyone who has been to Rough Point or Whitehorne House, you know they are special places – amazing collections, wonderful tour guides, and beautiful gardens. What you might not know is that your experience in both places has a lot to thank one man for, Bruce MacLeish. Blogged by Kristen Costa, Curator.

Bruce MacLeish retired from Newport Restoration Foundation at the end of August 2014 after an amazing fifteen years of work with us as the director of collections.

When Bruce came to Newport in 1999, he already had an impressive resume, but (selfishly), we like to think his work here at NRF was his best. Bruce, along with other NRF leadership and staff, transformed Rough Point from the well-furnished private home of Doris Duke on Bellevue Avenue into a world-class museum.

With such a big task on his hands, Bruce worked quickly and diligently in his early years here to research and organize the collections in order to find interesting stories and information to relay to visitors.

cropped-104-ocean-house-in-background.jpgIt would take far more room than this blog post would allow to list all of the goals Bruce achieved during his time at NRF, but here are just a few:

  • organized & catalogued every single object in the house (down to each fork!)
  • converted guest and staff bedrooms into collections storage, office and meeting space
  • set up the renovation of the house in its early days to make it more functional as a museum (with an elevator, gallery space, and HVAC system)
  • in-depth knowledge and research about Doris Duke and her life
  • organized & disseminate the belongs of Miss Duke’s at Duke Farms in New Jersey
  • served as interim executive director while Pieter Roos was on sabbatical
  • and so much more!

Whitehorn House was built on Thames Street, proudly facing the water

Through Bruce’s expertise, we at NRF have learned so much about the furniture collection at Whitehorne House.  Because of his connections and hard work, NRF and our museum collections are known worldwide and visitors flock to our properties to see our objects.

As director of collections, Bruce also spearheaded all the conservation efforts for our object collection, an important duty of any historic organization. In recent years, he has worked hard to make sure our priceless and fragile collections are here in better condition for the generations to come. It’s some of the least recognized and seen work in the museum field, but some of the most important. In addition, within the last few years Bruce worked on updating lighting at our museum properties to LED, providing a more green technology for our organization.

On a personal note, it’s been less than a month since Bruce left as my direct supervisor, and we miss him a lot. Whether with his great sense of humor or ability to find a solution to any problem, he was one of the best things about coming to work every day, and certainly the best boss I’ve ever had. Mostly we’re all wondering how he did so much every day, as we’re finding a lot of little tasks we had no idea about!

roughpoint_bookAfter so many years of hard work at NRF, the trustees of the foundation have honored Bruce by bestowing the title Curator Emeritus to him in honor of his contribution to the mission and goals of NRF.

While Bruce’s office remains empty and his duties shifted to other staff, he is still very much in our universe, leading the project to publish a second edition of our popular Rough Point book. To purchase the book, order it online or stop by Rough Point!

Please join us in thanking, congratulating and wishing Bruce well!

About NewportRestoration

Founded in 1968, Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting and maintaining Aquidneck Island's 18th- and early 19th-century architectural heritage and the fine and decorative arts collections of Doris Duke.
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