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deCordova museum aims to integrate with Trustees of Reservations

Children play near "Lincoln," by DeWitt Godfrey.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, and the Trustees of Reservations have signed an agreement that could lead next year to the integration of the two organizations.The nonprofit Trustees oversees some 116 properties in Massachusetts, including parkland, historic houses, and museums.

“In the Trustees, we have found a really willing and motivated partner,” John Ravenal, the deCordova’s executive director, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The deCordova retains its identity as a separate nonprofit. It’s more in a sense a transfer of management and operations.”

The museum sought out the Trustees two years ago about a possible integration as a way to ensure the deCordova’s future financial stability. An agreement was reached in May, with the understanding that $15 million would be jointly raised for the deCordova, largely for endowment. According to Barbara Erickson, Trustees president and CEO, $10 million has been pledged so far.


“Most of our places have endowments that are restricted to that place,” Erickson said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s a common way we work.”

The news of the planned integration was first reported by the Lincoln Squirrel website.

The boards of both organizations have signed off on the integration agreement. It still needs to be approved by a vote of Lincoln residents, which will be held in March.

“It seems very likely,” Ravenel said, when asked if he thought residents would accept the proposal.

If the vote is successful, the integration — not a merger or acquisition, both Erickson and Ravenal noted — would become official April 1. It’s expected to take another year to 18 months for the organizations to fully integrate their day-to-day operations.

Founded in 1948, the deCordova is as notable for its grounds as for its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art.

“It’s that real triple wow,” Erickson said, “the collection, the museum, and the parkland.”


Erickson added, “One of the big niches for us is that we provide platforms that really steward culture and nature.” She cited the Trustees’ Fruitlands Museum, in Harvard, and Castle Hill, on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, as sites that are “a celebration of art and culture as well of nature.”

The Trustees of Reservations, founded in 1891 and with a membership of 140,000, is one of the state’s largest cultural organizations.

Ravenal said he was pleased about the integration agreement. “What started out being really the only viable [financial] option has ended up being a tremendous opportunity — for us and the Trustees, and, we believe, the town. So we are very excited.”

Mark Feeney can be reached at mfeeney@globe.com.