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Robert F. Brown
March 27, 1938 ~ September 15, 2022 (age 84) 84 Years Old
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BROWN, Robert F. "Bob" 1938 - 2022 On September 15, 2022, Robert Frank Brown, "Bob," of Belmont, died peacefully in Boston of complications following a stroke. Born on March 27, 1938 to Robert Emmett Brown and Virginia Mary Bailey, then living in Idaho, Bob's boyhood was in Oklahoma and love of the landscape of the American West began there and remained for life. He came east to attend Brown University and earned degrees at the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and at Columbia University, following a year as a Fulbright Scholar in England. Bob taught five years at Wheaton College, Norton, MA before being asked to direct the New England office in Boston of the Archives of American Art-Smithsonian Institution, a collecting program and scholarly research center for the cultural and artistic history of the region. His responsibilities included acquiring in the original and on microform hundreds of groups of records related to the visual arts in New England from the colonial period onward. He also conducted several hundred live interviews with artists, as well as with museum directors, curators, scholars, and collectors, creating an oral history of material unavailable elsewhere. He directed the Boston office until 1998. After retiring from the Archives Bob renewed his interest in architecture through work as a guide at Gore Place in Waltham and the Gropius House in Lincoln. This required him to engage visitors with an important early 19th century country estate, as well as an iconic example of mid-century modernism, a contrast he found fascinating. With his wife Mollie, he became a committed museum visitor, concertgoer, and explorer of historic landmarks wherever they happened to be in this country as well as on trips abroad. But a persistent pleasure remained travel within New England, especially Massachusetts. Bob's collecting duties for the Archives had been very hands-on and he had a large store of tales to tell that drew on personal experience with people and places in New England. Anyone accompanying Bob on a "cultural excursion" was in for a special treat, not least because he also knew where good meals could be enjoyed all over the region! Bob also loved fishing and hiking all his life, and encouraged his grandson Savva to savor the glee that came from hooking a fish and reeling it in. He had been an ardent naturalist from boyhood, adept at identifying birds by their calls or plumage, and enjoying animals, especially a beloved calico cat named Frances. Related to this were his skills in cooking and gardening, regarded as complementary interests. An imaginative chef who made outstanding salads, Bob planted an herb garden every spring to have raw materials handy and happily showed guests where these were in the garden, often potting some up for them. Recently a new pleasure came to Bob as his grandchildren reached college age and he learned of their chosen schools.