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Center for American Art

Art tells the story of our nation’s history. The museum’s Center for American Art aims to expand the conversation around American art—with a special emphasis on the Philadelphia region—through exhibitions, publications, programs for a range of audiences, fellowships, project grants, and research resources.


Art is one of the best ways to understand the rich history of the United States because it offers an intimate insight into the people and principles that have shaped the nation.

Established in 2002, the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art encourages and facilitates the study of the nation’s artistic heritage from its beginnings to the present day. In partnership with universities, museums, and libraries in the greater Philadelphia area, the museum supports public programs, publications, and exhibitions, as well as offers project grants, fellowships, and research resources intended to enhance the dialogue on American art with a special emphasis on the local region.

To receive alerts about Center for American Art events and opportunities or for more information about the museum’s offerings, email

The Center for American Art sponsors one full-year graduate fellowship and two graduate fellowships each summer that enable students to develop curatorial experience while contributing to the Department of American Art’s collection research and exhibition preparation.

Learn more about fellowships in American Art

American Art Project Grants

The Center for American Art offers grant opportunities for projects that enhance the national discussion on American art. Typical grants are between $2,000 and $10,000.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the museum, grants have been temporarily suspended. Please check back for updates.

Eligible Projects

To be considered for a grant, your project should engage the artistic and cultural heritage of American visual art, from colonial times to the present, in any medium.

Eligible programs include educational activities (lectures, symposia, workshops, tours, etc.); research projects; and publications aimed at diverse audiences, from scholars to schoolchildren. Please see the list of recent programs below. Conservation projects, building renovations and reinstallations, and exhibitions or publications focusing on a single contemporary artist are not within the scope of these grants.

Grant preference is given to work or topics from the greater Philadelphia region, or projects that illuminate the art of the region in national or international cultural contexts.

Applicants are encouraged to partner with the museum’s staff in planning and presenting their programs.

Grant recipients are expected to acknowledge the “Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art” in materials related to the funded project.

Recent projects supported by the Center for American Art

​Held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art unless noted otherwise


  • “Stylish Books: Designing Philadelphia Furniture” symposium, The Library Company of Philadelphia
  • “Impressionism Around the World: Art and Globalization at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Tenth Annual Anne d’Harnoncourt Symposium
  • “Celebrating Silver: A Conversation with Bea Garvan,” with an overview of American silver at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by David Barquist, The Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Scholars’ Day, offered in conjunction with the exhibition We The People: American Prints from Between the World Wars
  • Art Splash 2019, offered in conjunction with the exhibitions Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South and The Art of Collage and Assemblage
  • Craft Capital: Philadelphia’s Cultures of Making publication, in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of CraftNOW and coinciding with the American Craft Council conference in Philadelphia, CraftNOW
  • Alison M. Printz, PhD Candidate in the Department of Art History at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Emerging Scholars Program Research Grant, through The Decorative Arts Trust
  • Rosalie Hooper, Project Curatorial Assistant, transportation to attend The Attingham Summer School
  • Exhibition support for From Storage to Studio: Reflexive Relevance, The Clay Studio
  • Staff workshop focused on developing a shared knowledge base around Black representation with Adrienne L. Childs, following an endowed public lecture
  • Staging support for the symposium “Craft Capital,” featuring keynote speaker Michelle Millar Fisher, Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, CraftNOW, hosted by The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Audiovisual support for the exhibition Off the Wall: American Art to Wear
  • Dr. Stéphanie Delamaire, Associate Curator of Fine Arts, research in preparation for the exhibition “Pirates and Gentlemen: American Colonial Painters and the Great Caribbean,” Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
  • PMA’s Pre-1840 American miniature collection evaluation and conservation assessment by Carol Aiken


  • Sponsored lecture by Dr. Christopher Oliver at “New Vistas: Painters and Paintings of the American South” seminar, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA)
  • Publication accompanying the exhibition “Making a Difference: Social and Political Activism in Clay,” The Clay Studio
  • “Continuing Curiosity: The Art of the Peales” gallery conversations and symposium, offered in conjunction with “The Art of the Peales” installation and publication
  • “Paul Cret and Modern Classicism” symposium, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Scholars’ Day, offered in conjunction with Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950
  • “Art Splash: Bright Lights, Little City,” offered in conjunction with “Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950”
  • “William Birch and the Complexities of American Visual Culture: A Symposium Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Visual Culture Program,” Library Company of Philadelphia


  • Lenders’ Day and Scholars’ Day, offered in conjunction with American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent
  • Watercolor Salons, offered in in conjunction with American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent
    • “Women and Watercolor” with artist Eileen Goodman and Kathleen A. Foster, The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art, and Director, Center for American Art
    • “Pigment and Paper” with conservator Scott Homolka and Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation Rebecca Pollak
    • “Philadelphia Illustrators” with artist Jerry Pinkney and Barra Foundation Fellow Laura Fravel
  • Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
  • “Objects of Study: Paper, Ink, and the Material Turn” symposium, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • “The Art of Revolutions” conference hosted by the American Philosophical Society and co-sponsored by the Museum of the American Revolution and the Philadelphia Museum of Art


  • Eighth Annual Anne d’Harnoncourt Symposium: Museum as Score, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania
  • Mellon–University of Pennsylvania Graduate Seminar Workshop focusing on Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House
  • “Latrobe and Philadelphia: The Waln House and Furniture Revealed and Reconsidered” symposium, offered in conjunction with “Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House.” Keynote speaker Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects. Co-sponsored by the Center for American Art and The Decorative Arts Trust


  • “Object Lessons: New Thinking about Still Life” symposium, offered in conjunction with Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life. Keynote speaker Adam Gopnik, essayist and staff writer for the New Yorker
  • “Batman, Superman—Prometheus?” panel and book signing with artists Bill Sienkiewicz, Yuko Shimizu, and David Mack and publisher Josh O’Neill, offered in conjunction with The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian
  • “Printmaking Now” lecture by Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator, Museum of Modern Art, in honor of the Print Center’s Centennial
  • Teacher preview of “Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life.” Lecture by exhibition curator Mark Mitchell
  • “Try a Technique: Botanical Illustration” teacher workshop, offered in conjunction withAudubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life” with artist Rose Levine

Research Resources

The Center for American Art offers assistance for all types of research about the nation’s artistic heritage.  Alongside the museum’s own library and archives, the center administers the files for the museum’s American art collections and maintains the Lloyd and Edith Havens Goodrich Record of Works by Thomas Eakins and the American Watercolors research portal, which provides resources for studying American watercolors, prints, and drawings from 1850 to 1925.

Additionally, the museum offers several free resources to aid researchers, including:

  • An online searchable database of many (but not all) objects in the collection,
  • The museum’s archives, which holds a variety of materials that chronicle the history of the institution, and
  • The museum’s library, which contains 285,000 print and electronic books, periodicals, auction catalogues, and online databases, as well as more than 190,000 cataloged digital images.

Since not all objects are represented online, please email to inquire about further collection holdings that may be of interest. Due to the fragility, rarity, and difficulty of handling certain objects, requests are subject to the approval of curators and conservators.

When accessing materials, certain types of information may not be available because of restrictions that protect the privacy rights of individuals/organizations or the proprietary rights of the museum, or for other reasons. However, access to the bulk of the collection is unrestricted and will be made available to researchers on a fair and equitable basis.

Request an Appointment

Appointments to access American art collection objects or research files can be scheduled for Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Availability may be restricted by the department’s exhibition schedule and by staff and space limitations.

To request a visit, email with the following information:

  • Name
  • Preferred date of visit
  • Subject of research
  • Purpose of research
  • Collection objects to be consulted
  • Research files to be consulted

A staff member will contact you to confirm the appointment.


When working with collection objects and files, kindly follow these guidelines:

Collection Objects

  • Check personal belongings such as coats, bags, backpacks, umbrellas, and portfolios at the museum’s coat check ahead of the scheduled appointment time. Pencils, paper, laptops, and cameras are allowed.
  • Food (including candy or gum) and beverages (including water) are not permitted in secured storage areas.
  • A staff member will be present at all times with you in secured storage areas and will handle and move art objects. When closely examining objects, ensure your accessories, apparel, and other personal items do not touch the object. Be mindful not to touch an object when pointing or looking through magnifying glasses or other devices.
  • Objects may be photographed with a digital camera, cell phone, or tablet but without the use of flash or a tripod. Images of many collection objects are available on the museum’s website. To publish an image of a work from the museum’s collection, email for information about photography rights and costs.

Archival and Research Files

  • Individuals granted an appointment will receive permission to examine materials after filling out and signing a researcher registration form. This document includes an agreement that confirms that access procedures and copyright law notifications have been read. Please visit the Library and Archives page to learn more about copyright law notifications and access procedures. Signed copies will be kept on file with a list of records pulled.
  • Individuals can examine records one box at a time, one folder at a time, maintaining the order in which they were received. Notify a staff member if anything appears to be out of order—do not rearrange the records yourself.
  • Digital images may be taken with an electronic device, as long as the flash is turned off.

When handling records, please do not bring any food or beverages to the reading table, don’t erase, trace, or mark up any of the documents, and do not bend or crease brittle paper. Please refer to our Library and Archives page to learn more about access and handling procedures.