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James A. Michener Art Museum Archives photograph and oral history collection on Bucks County (Pa.) artists


Held at: James A. Michener Art Museum Archives [Contact Us]138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA, 18901

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the James A. Michener Art Museum 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

The James A. Michener Art Museum, located in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is an independent, non-profit cultural institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the art and cultural heritage of the Bucks County region. Opened in 1988, the museum is named for Doylestown's most famous son, James A. Michener, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and supporter of the arts who first dreamed of a regional art museum in the early 1960s.

The massive stone walls and warden's house that make up the core of the Michener Art Museum began as the Bucks County prison in 1884. After a century of use, the abandoned buildings were being torn down when the county commissioners agreed to preserve the historic landmark and lease the land and buildings to house the new museum. After extensive renovation, the museum opened to the public on September 15, 1988.

The museum has evolved from a modest facility with a locally derived mission to an accredited museum with a broad vision. A world-class collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and changing exhibitions ranging from international touring shows to regionally focused exhibitions attract visitors from around the world.

Surrounded by historic prison walls, the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden and terraces, and a landscaped courtyard, the museum encompasses 40,000 square feet of public space that includes seminar and conference facilities, a museum shop and cafe, an art research library, the George Nakashima Reading Room, and gallery space. The Martin Wing includes preparation areas and collection storage spaces and the glass-walled Edgar N. Putnam Event Pavilion provides a space for special events.

Throughout the year, the museum hosts a wide range of art-based programs open to the public, including lectures, artists conversations, gallery talks, artist studio tours, dance and jazz performances, Ladies Nights Out, family-themed activities, and other events. The museum also offers art classes for children and adults, which include instruction in drawing, painting, sculpting, and printmaking as well as programs designed to enhance artistic awareness.


James A. Michener Art Museum. "About the James A. Michener Art Museum." 2016. Accessed August 13, 2016.

James A. Michener Art Museum Archives photograph and oral history collection on Bucks County (Pa.) artists, circa 1978-1990s, consists of photographs and oral history interviews with Bucks County artists conducted by Bucks County Community College students in 1978, recordings relating to the Bucks County Council for the Arts, and assorted interviews from various Bucks County media personalities that were broadcast on local radio and television stations.

Internationally known photographer Nancy Hellebrand worked as an associate professor at Bucks County Community College (BCCC) in Newtown, Pennsylvania from 1976 to 1991. During the summer of 1978, she coordinated a project for thirty current and former BCCC students to photograph and interview artists living and working in Bucks County. This project resulted in photographs and recordings of interviews of eighty-nine local artists, including visual artists, writers, musicians, and theater people. The photographs of artists are matted informal portraits, concentrating on the artists and their surroundings. No attempt was made to document the artists' work. In addition, there are 13 matted photographs of student interviewers, and their professor Nancy Hellebrand. There are additional versions of the artist portraits, including duplicate prints, contact sheets, and negatives. The oral history interviews were originally recorded on audiocassettes and document the artists' feelings about living and working in Bucks County. Transcripts of the interviews are available. Through an agreement with nearby Solebury Township Historical Society (STHS), the original audiocassettes were converted to MP3 format in 2015. STHS has started placing the oral histories online on its website (, although this project is not complete as of 2016. Artists represented in the collection include Ray Barger, Selma Bortner, Ranulph Bye, Vincent Ceglia, Robert Dodge, Alan Goldstein, Charles Hargens, Ed Harrington, Richard Kemble, George Nakashima, Katharine Renninger, Jack Rosen, Charles Rudy, Charlotte Schatz, Michael Smith, George Trivellini, and other artists.

Additional recordings in the collection mostly pertain to the meetings and workshops of the Bucks County Council for the Arts (BCCA), an arts organization established in 1974 to support and document Bucks County artists (absorbed into the James A. Michener Arts Center in 1985). Of interest among these recordings is an interview with Mariam Barford, BCCA director in 1986, regarding the opening of the James A. Michener Arts Center (now the James A. Michener Art Museum) and interviews with Erika Luitweiler and her collection of artwork by Bucks County women artists. Additionally, there are artist interviews from the 1980s produced for local Bucks County radio shows on WBUX, including the Joan Stack Show and the Louise Collins Show. The James A. Michener Art Museum also maintains a collection of recordings of the local television program "ArtBeat," which was produced by James Bunn during the 1980s and 1990s and includes interviews with Bucks County artists.

A more detailed finding aid, biographical note, or inventory for this collection may be available on-site.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact James A. Michener Art Museum Archives directly for more information.

James A. Michener Art Museum Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories using information provided by the James A. Michener Art Museum Archives
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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