Frederick R. Pleasants (1906-1976)
Frederick Rhodes Pleasants was an anthropologist who served as director of the Munich Central Collecting Point from June to November of 1946. A native of Montclair, New Jersey, he studied art and archaeology at Princeton University, graduating in 1930 with specialization in Mayan art and civilization. In 1938 he earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Harvard University, with additional coursework in museum studies in preparation for a museum career. He joined Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1940 as Assistant to the Director, a position he held until 1942 when he left to support the war effort.
From 1942 to 1943, Pleasants worked with the Pictorial Research Branch of the United States Office of Strategic Services, eventually becoming director of photographic research. The following year he joined the American Red Cross, where he served as a liaison between military and civilian populations and spent six months in the Pacific Theater Combat Zone. When he assumed leadership of the Munich Central Collecting Point (CCP) on June 1, 1946, the military was transitioning management of collecting points to civilian governmental agencies. Pressure was mounting to speed up repatriation of works of art housed at the facility, and the safety of those works was of primary importance. Pleasants responded by streamlining processing procedures, and implementing new security steps that increased control over the movement of both items and individuals in and out of the CCP.
After the war, Pleasants resumed his career at the Peabody Museum. From 1949 to 1956 he was on staff at the Brooklyn Museum, where he became Curator of Primitive Art. In 1958 he settled in Tucson, joining the Arizona State Museum as curator, and teaching at the University of Arizona. He remained in Arizona until his death in 1976. During his career he built a significant personal collection of art and artifacts, with emphasis on Pre-Columbian and African works. In the 1960s he began donating these items to the Tucson Museum of Art, helping to set the foundation of its permanent collection. Other works are now in the collections of institutions such as the University of Arizona, and the Indiana University of Art Museum.
*The Foundation wishes to express thanks to Kathleen Kenyon for her contribution to this biographical profile.