Main content

Museum records


Held at: Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections [Contact Us]W. W. Hagerty Library, 3300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Drexel Museum was established in 1892 in order to augment the cultural education of the Institute’s students. Originally housed in the east side of the Main Building’s ground floor, the Museum displayed various art objects and artifacts specially purchased by President MacAlister with funds from Anthony J. Drexel. Also among the Museum’s varied collection of fine and decorative arts were numerous Drexel family portraits, including those painted by Francis Martin Drexel. Objects were also received from George W. Childs, Lieutenant Allan G. Paul, Dr. Edward H. Williams, and others. Particularly noteworthy gifts included the six mummies donated by Colonel Anthony J. Drexel, and the Rittenhouse clock given to the Museum by Mrs. George W. Childs in 1896. Upon Anthony Drexel’s death in 1893, the Museum was bequeathed much of his personal collection of paintings. In 1901, the Museum would again increase substantially in size when it inherited the 19th century painting collection of John D. Lankenau, Anthony Drexel’s brother-in-law. As the first floor galleries became overcrowded, the Museum was moved to the third floor, and a Picture Gallery was formed to display the paintings of the Anthony J. Drexel and John D. Lankenau bequests. Despite the enlargement of storage and exhibition space, overcrowding remained an issue and deaccessioning began under President Hollis Godfrey in 1915. Over a decade later, in 1932, President Kolbe headed an effort to more thoroughly inventory and catalogue the objects and improve their display. Facilitating this was the Advisory Art Committee, formed in 1933-1934, which included President Kolbe (ex officio), Trustee E.P. Simon, Samuel Yellin, Nicola D’Ascenzo, and newly appointed curator Dorothy Grafly.

Dorothy Grafly, curator until 1945, did much to promote Anthony Drexel’s vision of the Museum as a dynamic educational tool. The daughter of sculptor and former Drexel instructor Charles Grafly, Dorothy Grafly was a highly respected in the art community in her own right as an art critic and editor. A 1913 graduate of Wellesley College, Grafly was frequently published up until the 1960s. Among her first projects as Drexel curator was to modernize the Museum and Picture Gallery, by simplifying their displays. She sought to promote the arts through drafting an arts program, scheduling lecturing, and planning special exhibitions. Grafly was furthermore active in outreach to other cultural institutions and programs, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Works Project Administration (W.P.A.). Her dedication to the arts and to Drexel itself did not stop there. In 1942 she devised and instructed the course “Art for Engineers”, which effectively combined Drexel’s tradition of both the arts and industry. Under Grafly's tenure, in the early 1940s, a number of valuable objects were placed on auction under the direction of the Trustees. This decision was met with so much outcry, that Grafly, A.J. Drexel Paul and others travelled to New York in order to select items for return.

As of 2011, the Museum is formally known as the Drexel Collection. It includes the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery, which is still located on the third floor of the Main Building and was restored in 2002. Visitors to the building may also view objects in glass display cases in the Rincliffe Gallery on the third floor corridor. Collections can also be viewed at the Peck Center Gallery.

This collection contains information on the activities of the Drexel Museum and Picture Gallery as well as past and present collections. The records, which include photographs and facsimiles of museum objects, date from 1797 until 1984; the bulk of records date from 1937 until 1941, corresponding with Dorothy Grafly’s tenure as curator. The collection was discovered in a partially processed state, which has made its original order difficult to ascertain. However, notes suggest that the curators’ correspondence and notes were kept in chronological order, wand thus this arrangement has been preserved. The collection has been arranged into three series: I. Curator correspondence and notes, II. Catalogues, inventories and reproductions, and III. Collection reports and publications.

The curator correspondence and notes series provides an in-depth look of the responsibilities and activities of the curator. The records in this series span nearly a century, from 1895 to 1984. However, the majority of the records contained in this series originated between 1937 and 1941, and belonged to Dorothy Grafly, Drexel Museum curator from 1934 until 1945. The chronological order that these records were discovered in has been retained. As the series title suggests, the bulk of the records are letters written and received by Ms. Grafly and her assistant, Rita Moak. Represented are numerous subjects, which notably include the Works Projects Administration (W.P.A.), the Drexel art program, various exhibitions, and conservation efforts. Interspersed with the correspondence are notes, inventories, drafts for articles, newspaper clippings, and meeting minutes for the Advisory Art Committee.

The catalogues, inventories, and reproductions series is predominantly focused on the objects that the Museum has formerly and presently houses. Despite primarily dating to the 1930s, the records of this collection date from 1797 until 1984. Few collection catalogues are included in the series. Rather, the majority are auction catalogues detailing the sale of Drexel-owned objects, which most notably include the contents of the Wooten estate (1949), and the original manuscripts for Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue and Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1944). The series also contains a number of hand- and typewritten inventories. Many of these inventories are undated, however it appears that they date to the mid to late 1930s. Finally, included in the series are various reproductions and facsimiles of museum objects. Of interest are the facsimiles of various letters/autographs, including letters from Ralph Waldo Emerson to George W. Childs, and a letter from Abraham Lincoln to an unknown recipient.

The final series, collection reports and publications, generally pertains to the museum as a whole. Dating between 1879 and 1984, the series includes newsclippings, student papers and official reports pertaining to the Museum and its collections. Also included is the budget for the 75th anniversary celebrations.

Overall, the materials in the collection are in fair condition. However, much of the records of the curator correspondence and notes series are on highly acidic paper. Therefore, a number of these records are rather fragile and require a great deal of care.

Drexel University: Archives and Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Phoebe Kowalewski
Finding Aid Date

Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1895-1896.
Box 1 Folder 1
Correspondence, notes, and inventory, 1900-1901.
Box 1 Folder 2
Correspondence, notes, and inventory, 1903.
Box 1 Folder 3
Correspondence, 1905.
Box 1 Folder 4
Correspondence, 1906.
Box 1 Folder 5
Correspondence, notes, and inventories, 1907.
Box 1 Folder 6
Correspondence, 1908.
Box 1 Folder 7
Correspondence, 1909.
Box 1 Folder 8
Correspondence, 1910-1911.
Box 1 Folder 9
Correspondence, 1912.
Box 1 Folder 10
Correspondence, 1913-1914.
Box 1 Folder 11
Correspondence, 1918, 1920.
Box 1 Folder 12
Correspondence, 1926.
Box 1 Folder 13
Correspondence, 1931.
Box 1 Folder 14
Correspondence, 1933.
Box 1 Folder 15
Correspondence, 1934.
Box 1 Folder 16
Correspondence and Museum of Modern Art bulletin, 1934.
Box 1 Folder 17
Correspondence, 1936.
Box 1 Folder 18
Correspondence, inventories, notes, conference programs, 1937 January-March.
Box 1 Folder 19
Correspondence, inventories, news clippings, 1937 March-December.
Box 1 Folder 20
Correspondence, brochures, news clippings, copy of H.R. 9102 (the Coffee bill)., 1938 January-February, undated.
Box 1 Folder 21
Correspondence, bulletins, pamphlets, brochures, exhibition inventories, 1938 March-May.
Box 1 Folder 22
Correspondence, drafts for Triangle article, 1938 May-June.
Box 1 Folder 23
Correspondence, sketches, pamphlet, 1938 September-December.
Box 1 Folder 24
Bauhaus Weimar 1919-25 Dessau 1925-28 [invitation], 1938. 1 item.
Physical Description

1.0 item

Correspondence, sketches, bulletins, 1939 January-April.
Box 1 Folder 26
Correspondence, drafts, bulletins, 1939 May-August.
Box 1 Folder 27
Correspondence, 1939 September-December.
Box 1 Folder 28
Correspondence, reciepts, notes, 1940.
Box 1 Folder 29
Correspondence, brochures, 1940 January-February.
Box 1 Folder 30
Correspondence, 1940 March-April.
Box 1 Folder 31
Correspondence, 1940 May-August.
Box 1 Folder 32
Correspondence, invoices, 1940 September-December.
Box 1 Folder 33
Correspondence, budgets, notes, 1941.
Box 1 Folder 34
Correspondence, notes, 1941 January-March.
Box 1 Folder 35
Correspondence, 1941 April.
Box 1 Folder 36
Correspondence, catalogues, 1941 May.
Box 1 Folder 37
Correspondence, bulletins, invoices, 1941 June-December.
Box 1 Folder 38
Correspondence, notes, 1942.
Box 1 Folder 39
Correspondence, 1943.
Box 1 Folder 40
Correspondence, notes, inventories, invitations, 1944.
Box 1 Folder 41
Correspondence, notes, inventories, 1945.
Box 1 Folder 42
Correspondence, articles, 1946.
Box 1 Folder 43
Correspondence, budgets, invoices, notes, 1949-1967.
Box 1 Folder 44
Correspondence, 1976.
Box 1 Folder 45
Correspondence, 1982-1984.
Box 1 Folder 45
Nicola D'Ascenzo records, 1938-1941, undated.
Box 1 Folder 46
Julius Stewart "After the Ball" papers, 1947-1987.
Box 1 Folder 47
Various, 1891-1959.
Box 1 Folder 48

A catalogue of drawings illustrating the life of Gen. George Washington and of colonial life. Together with a few other examples of work done for the public prints, by Howard Pyle., 1897.
Box 2 Folder 1
Catalogue of the picture gallery, 1908.
Box 2 Folder 2
Catalogue of paintings. Drexel Institute, 1935.
Box 2 Folder 3
Murders in the Rue Morgue facsimile.
Parke-Bernet galleries auction catalogue. Sale number 589: genre paintings of nineteenth century schools (property of Drexel Institute of Technology), 1944 October 18.
Box 2 Folder 5
Parke-Bernet galleries auction catalogue. Sale number 618: English and American first editions standard sets-colored plate books (including property of Drexel Institute of Technology), 1945 January 2-3.
Box 2 Folder 6
"The valuable furnishings and art collection at "Wooton," Bryn Mawr, PA. The estate of the late George W. Childs Drexel" [auction catalogue], 1949 May.
Box 2 Folder 7
"The valuable furnishings and art collection at "Wooton," Bryn Mawr, PA. The estate of the late George W. Childs Drexel" [auction catalogue], 1949 May.
Box 2 Folder 8
Supplementary catalogue for public auction at "Wooton," Bryn Mawr, PA. [estate of George W. Childs Drexel], 1949 May.
Box 2 Folder 9
"Valuable precious-stone jewelery...the estates of the late Mary S. Irick Drexel and George W. Childs Drexel" [auction catalogue], 1949 May 19-20.
Box 2 Folder 10
Samuel T. Freeman & Co. auction catalogue. Fine period furniture (including property of Drexel Institute of Technology), 1958.
Box 2 Folder 11
John D. Lankenau collection notes and inventory, 1948-1982.
Box 2 Folder 12
John D. Lankenau and Anthony J. Drexel bequests. Inventory and insurance policy, undated.
Box 2 Folder 13
Inventories, 1934-1936, undated.
Box 2 Folder 14
Inventories, 1935-1937.
Box 2 Folder 15
Inventory. Picture gallery, 1933.
Box 2 Folder 16
Sculpture inventory and floor plan, undated.
Box 2 Folder 17
Paintings. Inventory catalogue, undated.
Box 2 Folder 18
Deaccessioned paintings from Lankenau and Drexel collections, undated.
Box 2 Folder 19
Assorted notes on inventory and exhibitions, undated.
Box 2 Folder 20
Objects rejected or sold by Parke-Bernet, ca. 1944.
Box 2 Folder 21
Photocopies of paintings, undated.
Box 2 Folder 22 Box 2 Folder 22
Facsimiles of autographs. Incl. letter to George W. Childs from Ralph Waldo Emerson and letter from Abraham Lincoln to unknown recipient, 1797-1876.
Box 2 Folder 23
Mayor Robert T. Conrad's urn reccords. Incl. photographs, 1973.
Box 2 Folder 24
Photographs of Drexel family homes, undated.
Box 2 Folder 25
Hogarth prints inventory and catalogue, circa 1970-1979.
Box 2 Folder 26
Object valuations, undated.
Box 2 Folder 27
Inventory slips, circa 1935 to 1945.
Box 4

Report of the museum of the Drexel Institute, 1915.
Box 3 Folder 1
Student papers, before 1946.
Box 3 Folder 2
Newspaper clippings, 1879-1949.
Box 3 Folder 3
Promotional materials and articles, 1976-1985.
Box 3 Folder 4
Letter re John D. Lankenau collection, 1948.
Box 3 Folder 5
Report. Status of the Drexel Museum [1 of 2], 1984.
Box 3 Folder 6
Report. Status of the Drexel Museum [2 of 2], 1984.
Box 3 Folder 7
75th anniversary budget, circa 1966.
Box 3 Folder 8

Print, Suggest