Jean Sutherland Boggs records
Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]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
Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs is a prominent art historian and expert scholar on Degas who served as Director of several major North American Museums. She was appointed as the first female Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and served from 1970 to 1982. Part of her legacy was establishing new written Museum policies on important topics and setting into motion long-term plans for the reinstallation of the European galleries. During her tenure, the Museum acquired Degas’ “Red Nude” and installed the Thomas Eakins retrospective. Boggs also mounted two monumental exhibitions of non-Western art, “Manifestations of Shiva” (1981) and “Treasures of Ancient Nigeria” (1982), each of which presented great works of art in a scholarly context, and was well-received by the diverse communities the Museum sought to serve.
Boggs was born in Negritos, Peru, in 1922 and was raised in Canada. She received an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from University of Toronto in 1942, and a Master of Arts and PhD from Harvard University. Boggs also has an extensive teaching career: she taught as an associate professor of art at Skidmore College (1948 to 1949) and at Mount Holyoke College (1949 to 1952); as an assistant professor and later associate professor of art at University of California, Riverside (between 1954 and 1962); as Steinberg Professor of History of Art at Washington University (1964-1966); as professor of art at Harvard University (1976-1978); and as the Sterling and Francine Clark Professor at Williams College (1970). Her directorial career began at the National Gallery of Canada, when was appointed its first female Director in 1966. She remained in the position until 1976, when she resigned due to governmental and bureaucratic difficulties. In 1978, the Philadelphia Museum of Art appointed Boggs as its first female Director, and she remained in this position until 1982. Despite an institutional deficit and little emphasis on fundraising, Boggs managed to accomplish a considerable amount during her tenure.
Boggs left the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1982 to take a position as Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Museums Construction Corporation, where she headed up efforts to build two brand new museums, the new National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs has been an active and vital participant as a scholar and administrator in the fine arts community in Canada and the United States for more than half a century. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her work with the National Gallery, and was award honorary degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, Concordia University, and York University. Boggs has published extensively on the life and work of Edgar Degas and organized several exhibitions on the artist’s work, receiving international recognition for her scholarship.
The Jean Sutherland Boggs records contain the general correspondence and administrative records of the first woman to direct the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The records date from 1977 to 1983 and include correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, financial records, departmental and curatorial files, and other museum related records. The files also contain correspondence and materials received from other institutions and museum colleagues, as well as letters received from the general public.
These records are arranged in a single series. The series is arranged chronologically by fiscal year, and each fiscal year is arranged alphabetically. Folders are filed by names of individuals, organizations or museum subjects. Much of the correspondence of 1979, Jean Boggs’ first year at the museum, consists of letters of welcome and congratulations from both the Philadelphia community and the museum community at large, which she always answered with a personal note. As an Edgar Degas scholar, Boggs was frequently contacted to discuss the artist. The museum’s acquisition of the Degas painting titled After the Bath is discussed in letters and memoranda. Other records concern acquisition proposals from collectors and curators. The 1981 execution of the Sol LeWitt wall drawing No. 351 (“On a Blue Ceiling…”) is documented in a series of memoranda. The correspondence between Boggs, Anne D’Harnoncourt, and Jasper Johns offers more insights into the working relationships between directors and artists. Other materials include newspaper and magazine clippings related to Boggs’ appointment to her post and retrospective assessments of her short but influential tenure, photographs of Boggs and artwork, ephemera, and one audio recording. Boggs authored editorials and public addresses, and copies of working and final versions can be found throughout the collection. Many records concern her association with professional organizations such as the Association of Art Museum Directors.
The Museum’s relationship with the city is recorded in several places, usually concerning financial matters. Meeting agenda, minutes, memoranda, and newspaper clippings offer information on this topic. Other records relate to the stewardship of collections shared by the city of Philadelphia and the museum. These may be found in folders labeled “Fairmount Park Houses.” Other organizations represented in this collection include the architectural firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown. Boggs corresponded with the firm at the beginning of the assessment project that led to the redesign of the Museum’s entrance. Boggs also communicated with the firm on the subject of a historic ticket booth located outside the Fox Theatre in Philadelphia. The records include photographs and the Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown assessment of this architectural feature. During Boggs’ tenure, the museum worked with local television producers (Channel 57) to create a short educational series about the museum and its collections. Memoranda, summaries, and transcripts document the production process and audio commentary of each episode.
Museum subjects include specific administrative, curatorial, education, and development departments. Researchers should note that some departments and committee entities changed names during this period. For example, the Arms and Armor Department was still called Armor and Arms in the 1970s, but changed names during Boggs’ tenure. The naming conventions were preserved and records of this department should be sought under both names. Records concerning the conservation department and its treatments are present throughout. Another department with significant representation is the Department of Community Programs (formerly the Department of Urban Outreach). There are reports, publications and memoranda regarding programs at the museum administered Fleisher Art Memorial and Thomas Eakins House Community Center as well as other projects undertaken by this department. Large portions of each fiscal year are dedicated to budget planning and development. A five-year plan was developed during this time period and several versions with comments from staff members are stored here. Each fiscal year includes extensive records regarding proposals to grant funding entities such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation.The Boggs office also kept extensive exhibition records. Manifestations of Shiva was one of the major exhibits mounted by the museum during Boggs’ tenure (in 1981), and all of the stages of the event, from planning through programming, are documented in this collection.
The collection for the 1982-1983 fiscal year is followed by two groups of records that were originally filed separately. The first is a set called “Outlogs” and it consists of carbon copies of outgoing letters from the director’s office, which are arranged in two runs of records, the first alphabetically and the second chronologically. The second group is a set of records marked “Confidential.” These were also filed separately in the director’s office and they include records from the office of Arnold H. Jolles. Jolles was the Acting Director of the museum from Evan H. Turner’s departure in 1977 until Jean Sutherland Boggs’ arrival in 1979. For this reason, there is an overlap in records for the fiscal year 1978-1979.
Jean Sutherland Boggs headed the museum briefly, from March 1979 to June 30, 1982, but she made significant and lasting contributions to the development of the museum’s policies, operational procedures, administrative structure, and collections management practices; these contributions are well documented in these records. Additionally, the records held in this collection reflect the prevalent trends in museum collection management and general administration of the era. Those interested in repatriation issues will find correspondence concerning the Teotihuacan Fresco in the museum’s collection and inquiries about its possible return to Mexico. Researchers of the museum’s organizational structure will find staff lists, applications for curatorial positionsm, and descriptions of departmental activities.
Filing idiosyncrasies from the previous record keeping system were maintained. One example of this is a series of records that include filming and photography guidelines established by the museum filed under “F” as: “Filming Rocky III.” Similar documents relate to the filming of “Dressed to Kill.” Another recurring legacy filing convention is seen in the folders titled “Philadelphia anything” and “Pennsylvania anything”. Records that deal with the relationship between city or state government and the museum may be found in these folders as well as in folders titled: “Philadelphia, City of”.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2013-2014, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 16 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 4 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, arrange items within folders or complete any preservation work.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Carey Hedlund and Alina Josan
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 February 1
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use. However, some materials may be restricted. Please contact the Archives for additional information.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.