Mourning the Loss of Former Director David Whitehouse

David Whitehouse, former executive director of The Corning Museum of Glass, died February 17, 2013, following a brief battle with cancer. He was 71.

David WhitehouseDavid Whitehouse (1941-2013)

Whitehouse joined The Corning Museum of Glass in 1984 as chief curator. He became director in 1992, then executive director and curator of ancient and Islamic glass in 1999. He remained in that role until 2011. Whitehouse had a profound impact on the Museum and on the advancement of the scholarship and understanding of glass.

“David was a dedicated leader and a passionate scholar, and he will be sorely missed by his colleagues in Corning and around the world,” said Marie McKee, Museum president. “David embodied the Museum’s mission to tell the world about glass. That mission drove everything that he did, from the founding of the Museum’s glassmaking school to the numerous publications, educational programs and exhibitions that he oversaw. We are very grateful to David for making The Corning Museum of Glass the world-class institution it is today.”

Whitehouse oversaw the growth of The Corning Museum of Glass during a critical period in the Museum’s history, while continuing to position the institution as a global leader in its field. During his tenure as executive director, The Corning Museum of Glass campus underwent a major renovation and expansion, adding 218,000-square feet of public space and spacious new quarters for the Rakow Research Library, the world’s foremost library of glass-related materials. Under Whitehouse’s direction, nearly 20,000 acquisitions were added to the Museum’s glass collection, nearly doubling the Museum’s holdings.

As a scholar, Whitehouse understood the importance of having the world’s best research library on glass and led the Rakow Library’s growth and expansion. Additions to the library under his leadership included not only books, but also rare manuscripts, and archives from artists and glass companies from around the world.

Whitehouse also conceived of and established The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass in 1996. His vision was to provide a state-of-the-art glassmaking school that would train future generations of artists working in glass and provide a creative resource for the region. Each year, thousands of students take classes at The Studio, and tens of thousands of Museum visitors make their own glass.

“David’s vision was to create a glass studio that was as world-class as the Museum. He exemplified excellence and civility, and we carried out his vision with these qualities,” said Amy Schwartz, director of education and The Studio. “Everyone, from established artist to young visitor, is treated with respect and importance. As he did with all his staff, David empowered us to achieve excellence in our work of creating and programming The Studio. We were overwhelmed with his unflagging support. He had a brilliant vision and gave us everything we needed to make it a reality. Nearly 20 years later, The Studio is a major force in glass education, worldwide.”

One of the foremost scholars of ancient and Islamic glass in the world, Whitehouse published more than 500 scholarly papers, reviews, monographs, and books—including three volumes of Roman Glass in The Corning Museum of Glass—in addition to serving as an advisor to various academic journals. He was editor of the Corning Museum’s annual Journal of Glass Studies from 1988 to 2011. In 1990, he co-authored with artist and scholar William Gudenrath several groundbreaking articles on the manufacture and ancient repair of the Portland Vase.

David Whitehouse and Tom Buechner

David Whitehouse (left) at the unveiling of a portrait of Arthur Houghton painted by the Museum's founding director Tom Buechner (right).

Whitehouse curated numerous exhibitions at the Museum, including Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome (2008), Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers (2007), and Glass of the Sultans (2001). In 1987, he co-curated the groundbreaking Glass of the Caesars exhibition with the British Museum in London and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne, a show that introduced ancient Roman glass to thousands of visitors for the first time.

“I first met David when I was a graduate intern at the Getty Museum and, through that meeting, became inspired to study ancient glass myself. He served as the co-chair of my dissertation committee at UCLA, and we continued to collaborate throughout my career,” said Karol Wight, who succeeded Whitehouse as executive director in 2011. “David’s scholarly interests went far beyond antiquity. He studied not only ancient Roman and Islamic glass, but also worked on medieval and later material. He was highly regarded by his colleagues and was regularly sought after to collaborate on publications of archaeological material from numerous sites around the Mediterranean and beyond. His lengthy list of publications and articles is a testament to his standing in the glass community.”

Whitehouse is remembered by many not only as a respected scholar, but also as an educator. “He was a skilled storyteller who quickly engaged audiences when he lectured, and delighted visitors when he gave public tours,” said McKee.

Prior to joining the Museum, Whitehouse was director of the British Institute of Afghan Studies and The British School at Rome. He also directed numerous archaeological excavations in the United Kingdom, Italy, Iran, Afghanistan, and Libya. Whitehouse is perhaps best known for his work at the site of the ancient city of Siraf in Iran, where between 1966 and 1973, as a Wainwright Fellow at Oxford University, he directed six seasons of excavation, uncovering well-preserved architecture and several million objects.

Whitehouse held a Ph.D. in Archaeology from Cambridge University in England. He was a member of the board of the International Association for the History of Glass, and served as president from 1991 to 1995. He was also a member of the Pontificia academia romana di archeologia, an elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a trustee for the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, NY.

David Whitehouse

In his time at the Museum, Whitehouse catalogued nearly the entire ancient collection of glass. In 2011, he left his position as executive director and became the Museum’s senior scholar, focusing on writing and publishing additional volumes on Islamic glass, as well as a book on Roman cage cups. “It is vital that we complete Whitehouse’s work in these important areas.  We are planning to see these projects through to fruition,” said Wight.

Whitehouse is survived by his wife and children. A community gathering to remember David Whitehouse will be held in The Corning Museum of Glass Auditorium on Friday, February 22, 2013, at 5:15 pm. All are welcome.

Update: In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorials may be made to the scholarship fund of The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass.

30 comments » Write a comment

  1. David was by far the most productive author in the field of ancient and antique glass. He wrote more than 20 books and more than 560 articles on ancient and antique glass! He his a serious loss for the History of glass.
    May I offer my condolences to David’s family.

    Willy Van den Bossche (Author of the major reference works “Bibliography of Glass”, 2012 & “Antique Glass Bottles”, 2011)

  2. To the family of David Whitehouse,

    Please accept our deepest sympathy on your great loss.
    We have always had the utmost respect for Mr. Whitehouse not only as a curator but also as a friend.
    He will forever be remembered as an Icon in our world of glass.


    Davide Salvadore & Domenico Cavallaro

  3. I was deeply saddened by the news of David Whitehouse’s passing. Early on, during my visits to The Corning Museum of Glass, I was struck by Dr. Whitehouse’s willingness to assist me in my glass research projects; he was equally generous with his time as he was with his abundance of knowledge on the subject. I will miss him very much – I will miss this dear friend at Corning.

  4. dear david,
    we will never see you again,
    no more talks on glass,
    no more glass with the talks.
    we’ll cherish the nice days.
    sad that you’re gone forever.

  5. You have my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. David Whitehouse. A student and dealer of glass and china in Alabama, Beverly Atkins

  6. To Mrs Whitehouse and her children, respectively our condolence to you and your children,although I did not know him personally I do remember seeing him at the bookstore if I recall. and as a corning collector I have been privledged to read some of his books he has authored and know that his intrests in glass was very indebted in his passion for glass and its history. I do hope I have the privledge of finding a few books to add with the collection I’ve amassed through the years. It would be a great priveledge if someone would like to add the books to the present collection of mine.In honor of Mr David Whitehouse and his family I can be reached at (607)936-1484.
    With respects to you Mrs.Elizabeth Whitehouse I am sorry for your loss and as we
    continue each day this great city of ours will realize we were fortunate to have some one that cared about Corning and what Corning Glass had to offer. I can see Mr. Thomas Buechner welcoming him home with a high fiver. again condolence to you and your children.From The Spirit Family(Mr.Free Spirit and the girls , Savannah-Rose and Savannah-Valley

  7. Please accept my most sincere condoleance.
    I’ve meet David Whitehouse while I was in Corning 4 years ago, conducting my research on glass at the Rakow.
    David Whitehouse really helped me with advices, and supports. He was someone really kind, brighfull scholar, a reference in the field of glass research.
    Again, my deepest sympathy.
    stéphanie boulogne

  8. I was seriously shocked by the sad news of the passing of David Whitehouse. Please accept my sincere condolences.
    I will cherish the memories of our meetings in Corning as well as his visit to our glass factory in Leerdam, te Netherlands, during one of the glass seminars we were hosting there. The world of glass will be a poorer place without his knowledge and eloquense I will remember him with respect and affection.

    Johan Soetens,
    (former commercial director of United Glassworks, the Netherlands, author and co-author of zeven books on the history of glass bottles and editor of the
    quarterly glass-historical magazine DE OUDE FLESCH (‘Ye Olde Bottle’.)

  9. I was saddened to learn of the passing of David Whitehouse, who was both a personal friend and a good friend of the Carder Steuben Club. David’s ever-present smile, knowledge, intelligence and quick wit will be missed. He spoke at and attended many of the Club’s symposiums, contributing interesting insights on the life and times of Frederick Carder, his fellow Englishman.

    I would like to extend our condolences to his devoted wife Elizabeth and the rest of the Whitehouse family.

    David Goldstein
    President, Carder Steuben Club

  10. Although we first met forty years ago and only managed to discuss Siraf from time to time, I will not forget David’s kindness to a novice in the field.

  11. I would like to send my sincerest condolences for the death of Dr. David Whitehouse. I met Dr. Whitehouse at a conference that I attended while studying the history of glassmaking in Italy. I have always admired his profound knowledge of glass, European history and languages. In many occasions, he helped me with his honest remarks and his broad, multidisciplinary discussions. He was available to me as if I were one of his peers. His loss is terrible for the entire scientific community and especially painful for me, who admired him greatly.
    Maria Brondi
    Istituto per lo studio del vetro, Altare, Italy

  12. Dear Elizabeth and Family,

    Please accept our deepest sympathy for your loss.

    David was a great leader, educator, scholar and visionary in the world of glass. In his special way he reached across tremendously disparate disciplines to shape a cohesive experience for everyone who visits the Corning Museum.

    He gave so much and shared so freely with the glass makers at the Studio. We will always remember his friendship and generosity with great fondness.


  13. This is indeed sad news. David was a giant in the field. David got me started as a medievalist in 1972 when i was a high school student – and he took me on to dig in Tuscania, Italy, I joined him again at Gubbio a few years later. He was a kind and generous teacher. I only saw him in passing in recent years though we both lived in Central New York – something that I will regret forever. My condolences to David’s family, friends and colleagues in Corning, and to all who new him in the world of medieval archaeology and glass studies.

  14. I was very sorry to hear of David’s death. He was the first to greet us when we arrived for the AIHV Congress in Piran last year and was as jovial as ever. I was very shocked to hear of his illness just after we returned and am sad to learn of his passing.
    He will be very much missed by all who knew him.
    My condolences to David’s family and friends.

  15. To remember David is not difficult. I remember the scholarship and dignity he brought to every subject. And his total immersion in in the subject of glass that we all love. His life reflects all that and much more. It was an honor to have had the pleasure of calling him my friend.

  16. To Mrs Whitehouse and her children,

    The “Association Française pour l’Archéologie du Verre” has been deeply saddened to learn about your loss. David Whitehouse is a Reference to the entire glass community. We had been happy to meet him on his visit to Guiry-en-Vexin and Aix/Marseille during the AFAV congress. It was an honor to have him. Not only did people appreciate his scientific skills, but they also appreciated his human qualities. His various works have contributed and will contribute to feed future research.
    He will be remembered by all the glass researchers of our communauty.

    In the name of AFAV, we extend our sympathy to you and your relatives.

    Mrs Dominique Simon-Hiernard, AFAV president,

    And Véronique Arveiller, Danièle Foy, Geneviève Sennequier, Marie-Dominique Nenna, Hubert Cabart, Nicole Vanpeene, Chantal Fontaine, Barbara Follmann-Schulz, Françoise Labaune.

  17. Having known David Whitehouse on the occasion of joint ventures in medieval and later glass and ceramics, I am really saddened by his passing away. Many will sorely miss him both as a scholar and as a friend. My sincerest condolences to his family, his many friends and the fields to which he contributed so significantly.

  18. I have known David since we studied archaeology together as undergraduates. His suggestion that I extend his pioneering research in medieval ceramics in Italy shaped my career and life. Many British and Italian friends and colleagues will miss him. Francesco Aguzzi and Franco D’Angelo have asked me to associate them with my condolences to Elizabeth and their children.

  19. I feel very fortunate to have known Dr. David Whitehouse and helped him (in some small ways) to teach the world about glass. David had a special way of making everyone feel important. The way he spoke to you or shared stories or a laugh made it so easy to learn from him, whether you were a scholar, artist, or a teenager. His stories live on through all who knew him and through the many Explainers that heard his anecdotes and felt his passion for glass and history. His knowledge lives on forever.

  20. Dear Elizabeth, Julia and family, plus the entire Corning extended family,
    We are saddened for your loss, and wish you all the best in this difficult time.

    I will remember with great fondness my with encounters with David, and have learned a great deal through his scholarly research as well as massive contributions to the history and art of glassmaking around the world. We have lost a true genuine voice in the glass art world, and certainly not just because of his captivating British accent! I truly respect all that he did, as well as his oversight into the creation of one of the world’s finest glassblowing facilities: The Studio at Corning.

    As one who lost his father to a brief battle with cancer only three days before David’s passing, I know a little bit of what you are going through right now.
    May our glass community offer you all the support you may need during this challenging time.
    My thoughts are with you all.
    Sincerely yours,
    Ed Schmid
    Glass Mountain Press/Studios
    Bellingham, Washington

  21. The AIHV Italian National Committee regrets the sudden departure of David Whitehouse, famous scholar, colleague and friend.
    We remember his participation at the AIHV International Conference held in Venice and Milan in 1998. More recently we also had the honour and pleasure to invite him in June 2011 to our XV National Glass Conference at the University of Calabria.
    The President, the Board members and all the members of the AIHV Italian National Committee are close to his wife and children with sympathy.
    We’ll miss you, David!

  22. After his first visit to Tyre in 2011, David so kindly and generously committed himself to publish the Glass collection of the AUB Museum. He soon became one of us, working together, learning so much from his science and specially from his modest and pleasant character. It takes a great man like David to be humble and consequently so close to people.
    Our feelings are a mixture of happiness to have known him and sadness to have lost him so soon.

    Heartiest condolences to Mrs. Whitehouse and family.
    Leila Badre
    Director of the American University of Beirut Museum

  23. I was very saddened to learn of David’s death. David helped me so much as a student working on British School at Rome digs, at Gubbio, Otranto and other sites. My condolences to Elizabeth and family. I have very fond memories.

  24. Barbara and I got to know David and Elizabeth and their then very young family at the British School in Rome. They were both very welcoming and helpful and we established a deep friendship.

    Dr Donald Harden, formerly Director of the London Museum, Professor Dr Hansgerd Hellenkemper, Director of the Roemisch-Germanisches Museum at Cologne, and I, then at the British Museum, had the great privilege of working with David on the exhibition Glass of the Caesars. This was designed to introduce Roman glass to the academic world and the general public; but at David’s insistence, it was also, from start to finish, a scholarly enterprise, which, we hoped, would advance the subject. All David’s great qualities, personal, organisational, and academic, ensured the success of the project and made clear the reasons for the lasting achievements of the many aspects of his whole life and career.

  25. I can see David, hands on the podium, rocking gently back and forth on the balls of his feet as he weaves the story around the latest acquisition to the collection.

    I can see myself, part of a group of docents, following him like a flock of ducklings as he leads us through the gallery, sharing his knowledge of All Things Ancient, from characteristic glass-making techniques to graffiti on the walls of a Roman gladiators’ hostel and speculation on whether the “thumbs up” sign meant a job well done or the kiss of death to those gladiators.

    David had that added fillip of authority and culture that we colonials always seem to draw from a British accent; his soft, lilting voice always managed to capture our attention, quieting the room no matter how noisy it had been moments earlier.

    The mind’s eye is a wonderful thing. Although David has left us, he lives on in our memories. He will forever be part of the store of knowledge that is the Corning Museum of Glass and of the lives he touched and educated.

    But I will miss him.

  26. I’m very sad by David’s passing. I always remember him after our visit to Girona, were we saw our loved Besalú bowl, and Peralada. All my condolences to his family. David, rest in peace in your glazing sky.

    Sincerely yours,
    Alberto Velasco

  27. I am deeply saddened to hear about David’s passing. I only began to study glass three years ago and when I contacted David for help on a project he not only sent me long, helpful e-mails, but took time to meet with me in person and discuss my research over coffee. He is not only a renowned scholar, but a kind and enthusiastic teacher and I’m so grateful that I was able to meet him.
    All my love and condolences to his family.

  28. Elizabeth and family: We just found out of David’s passing as we were away those 2 weeks in Feb. Our hearts go out to all of you but we are all in our community so fortunate to have David’s talent in our beloved museum. May God Bless you all with many fond memories of him. Tom & Theresa Rossettie

  29. My wife, Marcia, and I first met Dr. David Whitehouse at a cafeteria meal on the introductory day of a class she was attending at The Studio a couple of years ago. We had no idea who Dr. Whitehouse was at the time. He was “David”. We enjoyed conversation. He said he worked for the museum. Only later while my wife was at class did I learn he was the Director. I bumped into him two or three times during the week, mostly around the library. He was always kind and friendly. Honestly, I felt something of a kinship with him since for generations my family was connected with the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company. Dr. Whitehouse will be missed even in the heart of the Midwest. I always hoped to return to Corning to encounter him once again.

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