PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 26) -- Gov. Mark Schweiker, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, today designated the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the "Commonwealth Treasure" for 2002. Designation ceremonies were held in the Great Stair Hall of the Museum at 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia.
"The Commonwealth Treasure program was conceived by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to recognize and support the historical and cultural resources that enrich the lives of all Pennsylvanians," Gov. Schweiker said. "Today, I am proud to recognize with this distinction the Philadelphia Museum of Art -- a showcase for the very finest of human creativity. For more than 125 years, the museum has served as one of the greatest symbols of America’s rich cultural history. Pennsylvania is proud that this prestigious art institution is found right here in our nation’s birthplace -- Philadelphia."
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States and among the most important. The scope of the collections is enormous -- ranging from paintings to sculpture, prints, drawing, photographs, decorative arts and design, costumes and textiles. The museum exhibits art from around the world and reaching back into the third millennium B.C.
Historically, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a legacy of the great Centennial Exposition of 1876, held in Fairmount Park. In March 1873, an act of the Pennsylvania State Legislature set in motion plans for the construction of a permanent building, Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park, to serve as the art gallery of the exposition. At the conclusion of the Centennial celebrations, Memorial Hall was to remain open as a Museum of Art and Industry "for the improvement and enjoyment of the people of the Commonwealth."
A new home for the Museum was designed in the 1920s as a vast neoclassical temple with wings embracing an open court. The Museum's design echoes the simpler neoclassicism of the little group of buildings by the Schuylkill River to the northwest, which were built in the 1820s to house the city's waterworks.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art beautifies and enhances the city of Philadelphia through its grand architecture and prominent setting, and through its outstanding collections. Its greatest contribution, perhaps, lies in providing artistic and cultural enrichment and education for nearly a million visitors from Philadelphia and its region, the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
In accepting the Commonwealth Treasure designation, Gerry Lenfest, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, said, "This is a thrilling moment and a brilliant capstone to our 125th anniversary. We are deeply honored. It comes just as we culminate the anniversary celebrations with a major exhibition of works of art given to the Museum by generous collectors and philanthropists, and underscores the role of the Museum as a great cultural resource for all the citizens of Pennsylvania as well as visitors from around the world."
Other dignitaries at the ceremony were Speaker of the House of Representatives Matthew Ryan and Philadelphia Deputy City Representative of Arts and Culture, Carol Clark Lawrence. Alex Kauffman, a student at Strath Haven High School, Wallingford, spoke about the Museum from a student’s perspective.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission established the Commonwealth Treasure designation to recognize an outstanding example of Pennsylvania’s history. A Commonwealth Treasure may be an historic site, structure, artifact, or record located within Pennsylvania and having statewide or national significance associated with the state’s political, social or cultural heritage.
The Commonwealth Treasure designation is awarded once each year. Other Commonwealth Treasures are Brandywine Battlefield (Chester and Delaware counties), the Pennsylvania Capitol (Dauphin County), Meadowcroft Rockshelter (Washington County), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (Fayette County), and Fairmount Park (Philadelphia).
For more information on the Commonwealth Treasure program, visit the PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us (Keyword “PHMC”) or go directly to www.phmc.state.pa.us.