Library Reading Room, Perelman Building
Sometimes called a "collection of collections," the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been fortunate to receive thousands of extraordinary gifts of works of art since it was founded in 1876, making it one of the largest museums in the United States and one of the most notable in the world. The collections of the Museum's Library and Archives have also grown through gifts, often from the same passionate collectors. This exhibition, presented in three parts over the course of a year, celebrates the diversity of donors' efforts—their relationship to the Museum, and to the Library in particular—and inaugurates the new home of the Library and Archives in the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building. Many of the generous donors who gave their collections to the Museum's Library and Archives collected rare books as their main or only objective; others collected books and manuscripts alongside art objects, for their aesthetic value. Some bequeathed a single treasured item, which had been passed down through their family for generations; others donated entire collections, which were amassed to support their research in a primary area of interest—collections that still inform scholarly opinion today. While every book or manuscript in the Museum tells a story, many of the items on view here have additional narratives to share, regarding provenance, printing history, binding techniques, illustrative content, and other topics. They provide a glimpse into the depth and breadth of the department's collections, which include materials from the fifteenth-century Renaissance of the to the Surrealism movement of the twentieth century and to the present day. These gifts—elucidating centuries of creativity, scholarship, and collecting from around the globe—represent the rich and diverse holdings available to scholars and other users at the Museum's Library and Archives.
This installation highlights gifts given to the Library during the Museum's early years as an industrial arts institution, emphasizing the period from 1876, when the Museum was founded as an outgrowth of the Centennial Exhibition, to 1928, when the Museum moved from Memorial Hall to its current home in the grand Neoclassical building on Fairmount. Exhibitors donated books to the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (as the Museum was then called) after the Centennial in response to the selection committee's plea for contributions. Other books later came from notable art collectors, including Mrs. Bloomfield Moore, Mrs. William P. Wilstach, and John G. Johnson. While these individuals are primarily known for the significant works of art they left to the Museum, they also donated books and manuscripts, which they had collected or produced as they acquired art objects. Another donor from this period, Charles Leland, was primarily a book collector and focused on unusual subjects, such as the occult. Many of the books donated during these years feature beautiful illustrations and fine bindings and range in subject from mnemonics (systems used to aid memory) to witchcraft to morality tales for children.
On view March 15 - spring 2008
This installation highlights gifts to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library between 1929 and 1959. During these major growth years, the Library received thousands of modern books and manuscripts-gifts that now define the Museum's Library as a major art research institution. In 1928 Fiske Kimball, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1925 to 1955, hired the first professional librarian to administer the Library, Paul Vanderbilt. During the Great Depression, Vanderbilt and his Works Progress Administration staff helped create a Greater Philadelphia libraries union catalog and began publication of a library newsletter. Another milestone during this period was in 1939, when the Library moved from its original home in Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park to the Museum's building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway-where the Museum itself had moved in 1928-a space the Library would occupy for more than sixty years. During the 1940s and 1950s, many distinguished scholars, art collectors, and Museum staff members donated their book and manuscript collections to the Library. These gifts transformed the Museum's research collections and helped to chart the course of collection development for many years to come. Through gifts and donations, the Library continued to grow, and by 1960 there were more than fifty thousand items in the collection, more than double the number held in 1929.
On view July 29 - December 2008
In this installation, we celebrate a diverse group of donors and a variety of objects. These gifts range from the private library of Robert Waln (1765-1836)-a prominent Philadelphia merchant and importer-given by Mr. and Mrs. R. Alexander Montgomery, to our most recent gift, the Julien Levy Papers, which include the renowned gallery owner's personal and business records, along with printed materials. Other important gifts include the Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch collection of books and manuscripts on arms and armor, the Henry P. McIlhenny Papers, the Stella Kramrisch Papers, and the Julius and Irene Zieget collection of Shaker material. During the past five decades, the Library has grown tremendously-from 50,000 items in 1960 to more than 250,000 items today. The Archives was established in 1975 and has grown to 1,600 linear feet, or an estimated 1.6 million documents. This period has also seen the establishment of endowed book funds and the birth of the Faith and Fine Arts Group, a friends-of-the-library organization that has given generous annual donations to the Library. After many years of increasingly overcrowded conditions, the Library and Archives moved to its new home in the Perelman Building in 2007. We look forward to many years of service to the Museum community, the general public, and scholars alike, with anticipation that our future will be as bright as our past.
Susan Anderson • Archivist
Linda Martin-Schaff • Library Cataloguer