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Buildings Department Records


Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646

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 their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

George C. A. Barbour, a construction engineer for the Fairmount Museum project, was appointed Superintendent of the new building at its opening in 1928. With Memorial Hall's continued operation, Barbour's office was designated as "Buildings" to reflect both facilities. He served as General Superintendent until his retirement in 1961, at which time Alan Corson, Jr. assumed the position. Robert Lipsey succeeded Corson, serving from 1969 to 1978.

During these tenures, the office designation changed. From 1949 to 1952, the General Superintendent position was simply considered part of the administrative staff. In 1953, Barbour headed "Construction and Operation," with Jane Edmiston as Personnel and Budget Officer. In 1971, at the time of Lipsey's tenure, the General Superintendent became a City appointment, along with the newly-created position of Engineer Technician, held by Walter Cheatham. Edmiston also became a City employee, with her appointment as Clerical Supervisor. The following year, both positions were eliminated. Lipsey's position ended with his retirement in 1978.

Because the work of the Superintendent and the Engineer was closely related, records of the two offices are sometimes interfiled. The Superintendent and Engineer files are subject files arranged alphabetically. Subjects are the names of architects and contractors, manufacturers, names of Museum sections or galleries, museum functions (e.g. lighting, plumbing, heating and ventilating) and names of exhibitions. Engineer Cheatham's files, however, are labelled by job number and have no apparent order. Edmiston's files pertain to special events in the building and personnel records.

For later related documentation, see Facilities and Operations Department Records.

Subgroup ADB consists of four series: records of the Building Superintendents, records of the Building Engineers, records of the Administrative Services Officer, and records of drawings under the jurisdiction of the current Manager of Engineering Services. The first two series are divided into subseries, the largest of which apparently served as a main file for three superintendents from 1929-1978. Others are records of individual superintendents and engineers.

These materials were arranged and described by Merle Chamberlain in circa 1982. Revised 2007. Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Merle Chamberlain (ca. 1982). Revised 2007.
Finding Aid Date
Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research. Some materials may be partially restricted for security reasons at the discretion of the Archivist.

Use Restrictions

The Buildings 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.

Collection Inventory

Physical Description

27 cubic feet

Records of George Barbour, Alan Corson, and Robert Lipsey, 1929-1978.
Scope and Content Note

The files are labelled "Letters--Office of Buildings" and contain records created by the three superintendents of the building named above. Subjects included are accidents in the Museum, attendance, bills, Museum collections, monthly reports from the Park Houses, city offices and special projects, claims, and defence. There is correspondence with R. Sturgis Ingersoll, Board of Governors, and with Fiske Kimball, Director.


Alphabetically by subject.

Files of George Barbour, 1946-1972.
Scope and Content Note

Contracts arranged by name of architects, company, contractors, engineers and Museum area, 1946-1961. Operating budgets, 1964-1969, are included. A sampling of purchase requests, 1966-1972, is also here.

Records of Building Superintendent Corson and Engineer Cheatham, 1960-1969.
Scope and Content Note

Mainly jobs filed by title of job, contractor, location in building, etc.


Alphabetical order.

Files of Alan Corson, Jr., Superintendent of Building, 1962-1969.
Scope and Content Note

Subjects. Included is a sampling of work orders, 1968-1969.


Alphabetical order.

Records of Robert Lipsey, Superintendent of Building, 1968-1978.
Scope and Content Note

Contents include contracts, renovation, personnel reports, building functions and exhibitions.

Physical Description

5 cubic feet

Records of William G. Allen, Engineer, 1937-1959.
Scope and Content Note

These records consist mainly of job specifications and correspondence relating to specific jobs. Folders are labelled by job number. Included is a copy of the city standards for job specifications, 1949, files of WPA construction projects and a copy of a Museum Bulletin annotated by Fiske Kimball. Allen had come to the Museum in 1935 as a WPA worker.


Files remain as found in no apparent order.

Records of Walter Cheatham, Engineer,, 1969-1976.
Scope and Content Note

Job files, 1970-1976.


Alphabetical by name of company, building location, exhibitions, etc.

Records of Jane Edmiston, Administration Services Officer, 1953-1972. 1.5 cubic feet.
Scope and Content Note

Contents of this file are Special Events, 1953-1955 and 1969-1973, and memoranda from Superintendents Barbour and Corson.

Physical Description

1.5 cubic feet

Records of drawings, 1937-1965, 1974-1976. 1 inch.
Scope and Content Note

Includes: (1), a catalog listing of drawings in ledger, numbers 700-2459, 1937-1965; and (2), a catalog listing of drawings in notebook from Dec. 1974 to May 1975 and from May 1976.

Physical Description

1 inch

Print, Suggest