PORTLAND — The Portland Museum of Art said Wednesday that it has received “a transformational” gift of nearly $3 million from the family of a Portland woman who was a museum trustee and a longtime supporter.

The gift from Emily Eaton Moore is the second-largest monetary gift the museum has received in the past decade, and among the largest ever, according to the museum.

“It comes down to being one of those gifts that is transformational for the museum. The opportunity and potential it provides in this tough economy is phenomenal,” said the museum’s director, Mark Bessire. “What a blessing. What a wonderful surprise. We just found out about it two weeks ago.”

The gift comes without restrictions, so the museum can use the money in whatever way it deems most appropriate.

Moore, who was 60 when she died suddenly in March, was very active in the museum. She served on many committees over the years, including the Collection Committee. She also helped with fundraising.

She began her association with the museum as a junior staffer and climbed the management ranks, eventually serving as assistant director and acting director in the early 1980s, when the museum completed the construction of the Payson wing.

She became a museum trustee in recent years.

“She was very nervous about joining the board,” said her husband, Charles “Kip” Moore of Portland. “She didn’t think of herself as a board sort of person. But she was a very effective and articulate board member.”

Moore said he and his wife created a charitable trust two decades ago, and named the Portland Museum of Art as a major recipient. “The museum was Emily’s passion and her desire, so it’s very appropriate that the museum receive this gift,” he said.

Unrestricted gifts are unusual, Bessire said. Most monetary gifts come with specific instructions about how the money may be used.

An unrestricted gift gives the museum flexibility to address a specific need or satisfy a mission. Bessire said the museum will work with the family to come up with a plan for the best use of the gift.

“We’ll put together the right group of people to make the best decision to honor her legacy,” he said.

In March 2001, the artist William Thon left the museum $4 million, as well as a large body of work. That money, which at the time was believed to be the largest gift by an artist to an American art museum, was designated for the museum’s biennial and exhibitions of American art.

The largest monetary gift ever received by the museum was $8 million from Charles Shipman Payson in 1976, which was used to build the museum’s Payson wing. The gift also included 17 Winslow Homer paintings.

The Payson wing, designed by I.M. Pei & Partners and built to house the Homer collection, opened in 1983.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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