Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley records
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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 Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley is the oldest and one of the largest regional associations of museums in the United States. The council was formed in 1939 by a group of thirteen institutions meeting to discuss a cooperative plan to promote Philadelphia museums and tourism in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair, which was held that year. It was to be composed of “those cultural and scientific institutions within the City of Philadelphia that have for the general public exhibits of permanent and cultural interest. It will serve its members as a medium through which their mutual interests may be unified and will further serve to bring to the attention of the world at large the invaluable resources that its members possess.” The Philadelphia Council of Museums, as it was first known, appointed an executive committee with the responsibility of producing and distributing a pamphlet describing museums in the city.
The council was active in promoting local institutions and their collections through public relations and outreach, notably through museum education partnerships with schools, and through the early use of radio and television, as well as the publication of directories relating to member activities. It promoted the preservation and storage of museum collections during World War II, and was an early advocate of conservation, collection care training, and disaster preparedness for member and affiliated institutions. Over time, the council’s mission became more inclusive and focused on the networking opportunities of museum professionals. Articles of Incorporation (1975) stated that the purpose of the council was to promote “communication between its member institutions; to act as a collective voice on matters affecting museums; to provide counseling service to museums and other educational institutions, and to individual persons contemplating museum careers; and to provide a forum for confraternity…” In this respect, the Council has recognized the accomplishments of individuals and organizations by the presentation of its annual Museum Service Award. The Council has also supported an ongoing discussion of issues facing museums in the areas of inheritance law, non-profit status, and the responsibility of museums to protect cultural heritage.
The council has continued to promote the resources and collections of museums and related cultural institutions to educators through the publication of school-related directories such as “Key to Discovery,” and its biennial seminar and guide, “Beyond the Blackboard.” It has mounted a series of public awareness campaigns through city-wide promotional efforts such as “Warm-Up to Museums.” The Council was host to the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums in 1951, 1965, 1982, and 1995. During its 50th anniversary celebration in 1989, the council, now the Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, boasted sixty-eight member institutions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Current information concerning the Museum Council of Greater Philadelphia, as it is known today, can be found at http://philadelphiamuseumcouncil.com/
The records of the Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley consist of 12.3 linear feet of textual and graphic documents produced by or related to the council from 1939 to 2004 (bulk date to 1998). The collection is divided into four series: Series 1. Administrative, including meeting notes, correspondence, executive files and related subjects dealing with the administration and operation of the council; Series 2. Financial, containing records related to budgets, income and expenses, and financial accounts; Series 3. Committees, comprising records of the larger standing committees and also subject files related to these committees; and Series 4. Projects and Affiliations, containing documentation of projects undertaken by the council as a whole, or in cooperation with outside institutions.
The individual files retain the original content and arrangement maintained by the council officer or committee responsible for the file, with only minor excisions for duplication and sometimes reordering of documents in chronological order. Some duplication of subject matter will necessarily be found throughout the collection. Researchers should note that even where there are dedicated files for specific topics or projects, related material can usually be found in other files, especially files related to correspondence, meeting minutes, and general executive files. The best introduction to any council project can often be found in the business and executive meeting minutes covering the period directly preceding and during the project.
Council files from 1939-1976 tend to consist mainly of documents determined to be of permanent value such as meeting minutes, final reports, official correspondence. Files from 1977-1990 are more likely to contain, in addition, planning and meeting notes, and various kinds of extraneous material gathered because of its relation to a topic or project, often undated. Files after 1990 begin to show significant gaps in the official record. Names of committees and other entities within the council have changed frequently from 1939-2004. For labeling purposes, the most common names in use during the last years of bulk records for the collection have been used.
Gift of Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, 1981-1983, 1992, 2010, 2014.
Accession numbers A1992.15, 2010.029, and 2014.046.
The original processed records of the Museum Council of Philadelphia consisted of about 16 boxes (6.4 linear feet) of administrative, financial, committee and program documents from 1939 through 1976. In 2014 additions to this collection of five Hollinger boxes (6 linear feet) of new documents as well as two volumes, were added to the collection and minimally processed. One of the boxes contained almost entirely records of the early Council from about 1939 to 1945; the rest covered the period from 1976 to 2004. In 2016 the 2014 additions were incorporated into the original collection and this collection was organized into four series. The volumes were disbound and incorporated into the text files. For the most part, the filing scheme of the original collection was maintained when the additions were added. Two professional-grade videotapes from the Warm-Up to Museums campaign, Projects and affiliations series, are closed to researchers until they can be reformatted.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Arek Torosian and James R. DeWalt
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2012, 2016
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
The Administrative series contains meeting minutes, correspondence, executive files of council officers, and various other documents related to council organization and operations. Meeting minutes from 1939 to 1976 are essentially business meeting minutes, with occasional insertions related to a meeting topic or speaker. Beginning in 1973, minutes of the executive committee are interfiled. From 1976 there are separate files for business and executive minutes. The executive committee was variously known as the executive board and the board of directors. Minutes followed a calendar year until about 1974, thereafter a fiscal year, July to June. In later years the June business meeting was known as the annual meeting, but this meeting differed from the others only in that an effort was made to have all members present, a sort of annual report or annual message was delivered by the president, and an unusual speaker or venue was chosen. Meeting locations were shared among council members. The annual report or message is usually not present in full text. What appears in this series as annual reports, 1979-1985, was a brief attempt to offer promotional and informational published reports. Later meeting minutes tend to contain more supplemental material. There are working files in preparation for meetings, preliminary notes and drafts of minutes, and additional documents relating to the meeting.
Correspondence files from 1939 to 1976 include most of the council’s executive correspondence. After this date correspondence tends to be distributed throughout the collection. Executive files, starting in 1980, contain correspondence and other documents from the files of council officers, secretaries and presidents. The content of these files overlaps significantly with other files in the collection dedicated to various committees and projects. The series also contains files dealing with council history, by-laws, organization, planning, legal matters, and samples of graphics and stationery.
The Financial series contains documents relating to business records of the council: budgets, checking and savings account records, receipts, disbursement vouchers. Starting about 1980, the minutes of the executive board begin to include periodic financial reports to officers, but this is not consistent. Financial reports include both internal reports and audits by outside accountants. Some of the files in this series relate to specific programs and projects of the council and its committees; at other times these files are found with documents relating to the project. The decision of where to place these files was determined by their location in the original collection. Researchers should look in both the Financial series and the Committee and Projects series for these records.
The Museum Council supported a number of both standing and ad hoc committees throughout its history, with frequent changes in name and responsibility. For purposes of organization, this series reflects the major standing committees as they existed in the 1990s: membership, public relations, program, educators, and curators and registrars, with some brief files representing other committees following these. These files contain not only documentation related to the committee itself, but also the work of the council in these areas, whether or not it can be assigned to any specific committee. There were several committees, such as nominating, that have little or no documentation in the collection despite early and frequent mention in council literature. The executive board was originally designated the executive committee; its files are located in the Administrative series.
The membership committee files begin in 1939, even though a formal committee did not exist until 1942. Most of the documentation concerning early membership can be found in the Administrative series correspondence and meeting minutes files. This section contains material related to membership application, council directories, mailing lists, dues, and change of address, as well as specific committee minutes and business. The council directories are the easiest way to determine the officers, members and various committees of the council in any given year. Included under this committee are also files pertaining to council members, both individual and institutional.
The public relations committee files document efforts by the council to promote and publicize the council and its members, including news and press clippings. Much of the work of this committee was related to the publication of a calendar of events or a special event calendar, as well as various efforts to promote member institutions. These projects were undertaken in the early years of the council by various ad hoc committees with titles such as publicity, or calendar of events.
The program committee was devoted almost exclusively to securing speakers and related programs to be presented at the monthly business meeting. Files frequently contain personal background information on speakers, as well as transcripts of the presentation.
The educators committee, sometimes referred to as the education committee, was concerned with museum-school engagement and promotion of museum resources to educators. Over the years the committee oversaw the production and publication of several guides to museum collections for educators, including “Educators Guide to Museum Resources in the Delaware Valley,” “Key to Discovery,” and “Beyond the Blackboard,” which included a biennial seminar.
The curators and registrars committee worked in several capacities to promote collection care and conservation through seminars and other workshops. Its most important accomplishment was the publication of “Disaster Preparedness: A Resource Guide and Manual” in 1989 and 1994.
The Projects and affiliations series contains files related to projects that the Museum Council undertook as a whole (not restricted to one individual or committee), or that relate to joint projects with other organizations. Major council projects included International Museum Week (1955-1956), the Warm-Up to Museums promotional campaign (1986-1988), and the public forum “Earning Their Keep: Alternative Uses for Museum Collections” (1995). Significant collaborations and affiliations included support for the Philadelphia Council on Tourism (1961-1969), and the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. The council also hosted the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums (now American Alliance of Museums) on four occasions. The 1982 annual meeting is particularly well documented. The series includes a professional grade videotape public service announcement related to the Warm-Up to Museums campaign.
Materials in this folder refer to a televised public service announcement made by WPHL Productions. Videotape of the PSA is held in Box 31 of this collection.
Box 31 contains two professional grade (1" C format) public service announcement videotapes made at the Balch Institute on December 16, 1985 by WPHL Productions for the Warm-Up to Museums project. Additional information concerning these PSA's is contained in Box 29, Folder 5 of this collection. These videotapes are closed to researchers until they can be reformatted.