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Archives Department Records


This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Archives Department Records
Date [inclusive]:
1962-2006, n.d.
Call Number:
14 linear feet
None available.
Cite as:
[Item identification and date], [Series info.], Archives Department Records, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives.
PDF Version:

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As Museum Archivist Louise Rossmassler recalled in 1983, the Museum initiated its Archives in 1975 during the installation of an air-conditioning system throughout the building. "The Director, Evan Turner, recognized the opportunity to gather together the scattered collections of ... records so that they would be available for research use." He also took advantage of the offer of Gertrude Toomey, the Museum's retired registrar, to help with the project. The following year, Merle Chamberlain, who had been a volunteer in the Museum Library, was appointed the Museum's first archivist, with Toomey's part-time assistance. From 1976 to 1977, the Archives functioned as an independent office. By 1978, it became part of the Library.

Before retiring in 1982, Chamberlain wrote the first two editions of the Inventory of the Archives, the first publication giving staff and outside researchers intellectual access to its holdings. Louise Rossmassler, who succeeded Chamberlain as archivist, wrote the next two editions of the inventory. Upon Rossmassler's retirement in 1987, Alice Lefton became archivist. She served until 1991 when operation of the Archives was temporarily suspended. Because of the volunteer service of Rossmassler, however, the Archives was able to continue to operate on a limited basis. Because of Rossmassler's efforts, staff and scholars could still access records and continue their research. In 1998, the Museum reopened the Archives on a full-time basis, appointing Susan Anderson as museum archivist. Anderson continues to serve in that position. Rossmassler continues to volunteer.

Works Consulted
  1. Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 1983. Inventory of the Archives. 3rd edition.

Scope and Contents

Beginning approximately in 1962, the earliest records are general files compiled by the archivists over a thirty-year period. Files pertain to topics concerning the Museum's operation, such as admission and membership, as well as archival issues, such as preservation and the temporary closing of the Museum's Archives. Reference reports of researchers visiting the Archives from 1986 to 1999 comprise the second record series. Chronological summaries measure in-house and outside researchers, and a second subseries pertains to individual scholars undertaking "intensive research" projects. The third and largest series pertains to the archives initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. During this four-year grant project, which began in the fall of 2000, project staff worked to enhance scholarly access to several historically significant manuscript collections and institutional records through an integrated program of processing, database development, digitization, and encoding for Internet distribution. Records are those produced by the Museum archivist, project manager, project archivist and assistant project archivist. The records document each stage, from planning and grant application to database development and processing plans.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams


Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research. Access to institutional records less than 10 years old is at the discretion of the Archivist.

Use Restrictions

The Archives Department Records are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives

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Collection Inventory

General, circa 1962-1991. 2.5 linear feet.

Merle J. Chamberlain and Louise F. Rossmassler.

Alice Lefton and later management.

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Reference Reports, 1986-1999. 3.75 linear feet.

Chronological reports.

Intensive research reports.

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Mellon Archives Initiative Project, 1999-2006. 7.75 linear feet.

Records of the Museum archivist.

Records of the project manager.

Records of the project archivist.

Records of assistant project archivist.

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