Skip to main content

William J. Dane Papers

Identifier: MG 8


  • Majority of material found in 1923 - 2019

Conditions Governing Access

Available by appointment only. Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied or photographed without permission from library staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

The "dapper, refreshingly irreverent art scholar," who began his career as a clerk in the art and music department of the Newark Public Library in 1947, and ended it 62 years later in 2009 as the supervising librarian of Special Collections, William J. "Bill" Dane, died on Saturday, July 13, 2019, at the age of 96.

"Renowned in art circles for his unimpeachable manners, his implacable curiosity, and his unassailable scholarship… but perhaps, most revered for his impeccable eye…," Dane took charge of a very rich collection founded at the turn of the 20th century and expanded it so that it is now a comprehensive worldwide survey of the graphic arts from the Renaissance to the 21st century.

"Dane has been an ideal custodian of the art collection," art historian, Ezra Shales said in an appreciation, "because he understands that they were created in the first decade of the 20th century to entertain and inform the library's patrons… [He] has been careful to preserve the emphasis on aesthetic pleasure…, [but he] has pushed the envelope."

In his own words, Dane defined his guiding principle as "a magical thing really." "I love abstraction...realism...bright colors and lines, and exploratory graphics. I don't have any personal barriers."

Born and raised in Concord, N.H., where his Irish-born father ran an auto repair shop, Dane was an inquisitive child. His education at the University of New Hampshire was, however, interrupted by World War II. He joined the Army in 1942, underwent basic training at Fort Bragg, and was then sent to the Newark College of Engineering (now the New Jersey Institute of Technology) to study bridge-building. It turned out that the Army didn't need bridge-builders so his infantry division (the 69th ) was sent to Belgium in December 1944. After the war, after completing his liberal arts degree, Dane was hired by the Newark Public Library in the fall of 1947. He was assigned to the art and music department, and began to learn about art.

Over the course of his many decades, he curated over 350 exhibitions on topics as diverse as etchings by old masters, prints by modern masters, Japanese traditional and modern woodblocks, work by African American artists and Puerto Rican artists, and so many more. In 1997 the collection was named "The William J. Dane Fine Print Collection" in his honor, and in 2004 he established "The Gertrude Fine Prints Endowment Fund" in memory of his sister. In summing up his career, Dane once said, "I feel very lucky that early on I fell into a professional subject area that I found very rewarding and filling… No two days have been the same." -Obituary written by William Peniston, Librarian/Archivist at The Newark Museum


11.17 Linear Feet (10 Hollinger boxes, one Paige Box containing four binders of photographs, 5 oversized flat boxes, and two boxes of slides. Digitized materials are on a flash drive, filed in the Paige Box. )

Language of Materials



Collection was organized into six categories: Family, Education, service in World War II; employment at The Newark Public Library; Professional Affiliations; and Personal matters. Dane passed away without heirs, and hence the collection contains historic family photographs, correspondence between his sister and her parents; and documents related to past generations of the Dane and Reynolds families.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequeathed by William J. Dane, 2019

Separated Materials

Button Collection contains one box of political and Soviet buttons which belonged to William J. Dane; Menu Collection contains several menus which belonged to William J. Dane; Dickerman Family Bible from 1836 has been transferred to the Rare Book Collection

Processing Information

Processed by Nadine Sergejeff, with assistance from Amanda Klein, September-December 2019

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, Newark Public Library Repository

5 Washington Street
PO Box 630
Newark NJ 07102 USA