A decade of immense change began at the Clark in 1960. Francine Clark died in April, four years after her husband, and the museum gained a significant additional endowment that enabled it to consider both new acquisitions and special programmatic initiatives in the coming years. Moreover, the Clark Professorship was established at Williams College
. The professorship attracted art historians with high levels of expertise, many of whom would prove of valuable assistance to the Clark, such as the noted Italian paintings and sculpture expert John Pope-Hennessy. Meanwhile, J. Phinney Baxter, former Williams College president; John E. Sawyer, president of Williams and a Clark trustee; Talcott Banks, future Clark board chair; and Dr. William Milliken, a leader among American museum directors, helped the Institute find its direction and take the first major step toward establishing itself as not only a museum, but also a center for research and academic programming. With the support, encouragement, and prompting of this group, the Institute enlarged its educational and research focus, embraced the academic mission of the Clark’s 1950 charter, and decided to establish a graduate program
In 1964 the Clark opened its library, now one of the finest art history libraries in North America, after purchasing the entire bibliographical holdings of art historian Dr. W. R. Juynboll with a donation from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation in New York. The following year, the Duveen art reference library was added. John Sawyer and his colleagues believed that an art history library was the first requirement for establishing a graduate program.
Noted art historian George Heard Hamilton joined the Clark in June 1966 as director of the Institute and also as head of the future graduate program. He quickly instigated a change in the restrictive lending policy, allowing the Clark freedom in its exchanges with other institutions.
In 1972 the first graduate class entered the Clark in an innovative program cosponsored by Williams College and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. To this day, this rigorous two-year program affords students a thorough foundation for careers as academic and museum professionals. To accommodate such rapid growth, including an expanded library and a redirected and enlarged educational initiative, construction began on a new building, which was completed in 1973. Designed by Pietro Belluschi and The Architects Collaborative, the Manton Research Center houses a library, graduate seminar rooms, galleries, offices, and an auditorium. The auditorium allowed for the addition of children’s education programs, film and lecture series, and concert programs.
The Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory, now known as the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, [LINK to http://www.williamstownart.org]was founded on the Clark’s campus in 1977. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to conservation and other issues of collection care. That same year, David S. Brooke became director of the Institute. In 1978 the Clark founded its membership organization, Friends of the Clark, and in the 1980s the Institute began a program of significant acquisitions in many areas, including paintings, silver, prints, drawings, and the decorative arts. Important purchases during this time included Vulcan Presenting Arms to Venus for Aeneas by François Boucher, Young Christian Girl in Prayer by Paul Gauguin, and Port of Rouen: Unloading Wood by Camille Pissarro.