The museum is administered by an association.
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Founded in 1847, the “Société de Martin Schongauer”, a non-profit association, has administered the Musée Unterlinden since its opening in 1853. In 1847, Louis Hugot, archivist and librarian for the city of Colmar, brought together a group of scholars whose aim was to build up a print collection and establish a school of drawing. Adopting the name Société Schongauer, the association also assumed responsibility for the administration of the works rescued from those revolutionary forces who had wished to destroy all property belonging to the Catholic Church. As the first president of this association, it was Louis Hugot who initially developed the plan to convert the former Dominican convent of Unterlinden into a museum. In 1852, the works rescued from revolutionary forces were transferred to the buildings of the former convent. The museum opened to the public in 1853, at which time it already exhibited its best-known work, the Isenheim Altarpiece.