J. Paul Getty viewed art as a civilizing influence in society and strongly believed in making art available to the public for its education and enjoyment. Acting on this belief, he gave significant pieces to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art starting in 1948. In 1953, he decided to establish his own museum to provide public access to his personal collection. He opened the J. Paul Getty Museum to the public in 1954. This small museum, established in his ranch house in Malibu (today, Pacific Palisades), housed collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, 18th-century French furniture, and European paintings.

Most of Mr. Getty's personal estate passed to the Trust in 1982, after his death in 1976. The Trustees sought to make a greater contribution to the visual arts by expanding the Museum and its collections, and created a range of new programs to serve the world of art.

During his lifetime and thereafter, Mr. Getty's philanthropy enabled the construction of the Villa in Pacific Palisades and the Getty Center in Brentwood, the expansion of the collections of the Museum, and the creation of the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Research Institute, and the Getty Foundation.

Historical records of the J. Paul Getty Trust's activities are held in the Institutional Archives at the Getty Research Institute.

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