Langdon Warner Records
Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646
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Langdon Warner, a scholar of Asian art and an archeologist, was Director of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art from 1917 to 1923. Warner also served as Curator of the Wilstach Collection (the Wilstach family art collection was bequeathed to the city in 1892 and custodianship was transferred to the Museum in 1917). While serving as Director of the Museum, Warner traveled extensively in Asia and was often away from the Museum. Almost immediately after taking the job, he departed for Japan where he set about acquiring works of art that "were thought too good to lose." In Warner’s absence, E. Hamilton Bell was the Museum’s Acting Director, from December 1917 to January 1919. When Warner left the Museum in 1923, S. W. Woodhouse became the Acting Director.
Warner was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1881. He attended Harvard University where he was introduced to the field of archeology by Raphael Pumpelly. Warner was also a member of the 1903 Pumpelly-Carnegie expedition to Russian Turkestan. After graduating from Harvard in 1903, he went to Japan in preparation for a position as Associate Curator of Asiatic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which he held from 1906 to 1913. In 1913, he became the Director of the American School of Archeology in Peking, China, and left that position in 1917 to come to Philadelphia.
Warner established the Museum's Division of Eastern Art in 1917. He was also integral in establishing the Children’s Museum in the basement of Memorial Hall in 1918, and the Print department in 1923. A donation in 1919, from the family of Adeline Pepper Gibson, initiated the Museum’s tradition of installing period rooms. The gift of several granite architectural sculptures from the temple city of Madurai were assembled first at Memorial Hall before being permanently installed in the new Museum two decades later as the Pillared Hall from a Temple (Mandapa) . This was followed, in 1922, by the installation of the Tower Hill Room from London, purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. McIlhenny. During Warner’s tenure, plans for the new Museum building were finalized and construction began in July of 1919.
After his tenure as Director of the Museum, he returned to Harvard University as a Lecturer in Fine Arts and later as Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum of Art. A notable period of Warner’s later career was his work as a consultant to the the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section during World War II. Members of this project, called the “Monuments Men,” were charged with ensuring the safety of fine arts and cultural treasures during the course of the armed conflict, both in Europe and in the Pacific Arena. During this time Warner is credited with protecting the cities of Nara and Kyoto from damage during the allied bombings, effectively preserving two highly significant cultural heritage sites in Japan. Warner died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1955; after his death, Japan awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasures.
The Langdon Warner records contain correspondence of Langdon Warner, Museum Director between 1917 and 1923, and E. Hamilton Bell, Acting Director during Warner’s absence. At the time, the Museum's collections were housed in Fairmount Park's Memorial Hall. The correspondence mainly concerns the Museum's facilities, collections, exhibitions and purchases. This collection is divided into two series: Series “I. Director’s correspondence”, covering the period from 1917 to 1923, and Series “II. Acting Director E. Hamilton Bell correspondence”, dating from 1918 to 1929. Due to previous filing conventions, E. Hamilton Bell’s correspondence is found throughout both series, although the series name suggests a separation of materials.
The series “I. Director’s correspondence” dates from 1917 to 1923 and contains mainly correspondence between museum officers and the Director’s office. Warner corresponded extensively with museum affiliates such as John D. McIlhenny and Leslie W. Miller, Principal of the School of Industrial Art as well as Asian art scholars and administrators of other institutions. An important portion of Warner’s correspondence concerns Asian artifacts and archeological activities. Some of the exchanges concern exhibit design and discuss details such as display cases and lighting. The Children’s Museum, founded during Warner’s tenure, is a recurring subject which is observed in the exchanges with Mary E. Sinnott, the owner of a doll collection used by this department. There is a brief exchange with Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, one of the primary architectural firms involved with the construction of the new Museum building. Other notable correspondents include Belle Da Costa Greene, librarian of the J. Pierpont Morgan library and John Cotton Dana of the Newark Museum Association and the Free Public Library of Newark. The somewhat idiosyncratic alphabetical arrangement established by previous record keepers was maintained; consequently, correspondents may be alphabetized by name, institutional affiliation, or geographical location. An example of this is correspondence with the Royal Ontario Museum of Archeology, found under “Toronto”; another is the correspondence with John Cotton Dana, filed under “Newark”.
Series “II. Acting Director E. Hamilton Bell correspondence” is a very small series comprised of E. Hamilton Bell’s correspondence during his period as Acting Director; this series dates from 1918 to 1929 and is arranged alphabetically by name or subject. From December 1917 through January 1919, E. Hamilton Bell was Acting Director while Warner was away in the Far East. Bell also was the Curator of the John J. Johnson Collection, another city-owned collection, from 1917 until his death in 1929. Henri Marceau was his Assistant Curator for the Johnson Collection. Bell was Co-Editor, along with Horace H. F. Jayne and Langdon Warner, of a journal called Eastern Art . Because of his continued involvement in Museum affairs, more of Bell’s correspondence can be found in the first series as well. Series II. includes correspondence with John D. McIlhenny (President of the Museum's Board of Trustees and art collector), the Commissioners of Fairmount Park, a proposal regarding the Children’s Museum, and an exchange concerning Japanese art collections.
This collection will be of interest to those researching the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, the network of museum administrators in early twentieth century North America, early archeological exploration and collection of Asian art and artifacts, and Langdon Warner.
Finding aid prepared by Carey Hedlund and Alina Josan in 2013. 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, Alina Josan
- Finding Aid Date
- 2013 November 7
- 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.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.