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Woodmere Art Museum records


Held at: Woodmere Art Museum [Contact Us]9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19118

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

Woodmere Art Museum, located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was officially established in 1940 through the will of Charles Knox Smith and is dedicated to Philadelphia-area artists.

The Museum, housed in a nineteenth-century Victorian, six-acre estate on Germantown Avenue, was formerly the residence of Charles Knox Smith (1845-1916). Smith, a Philadelphia businessman, civic leader, and art collector, purchased the estate in 1898 and named it "Woodmere." He renovated and expanded his home in order to better display his art collection. Beginning in 1910, visitors (mostly from Smith's social circle) were invited to view his collection on Thursday evenings. Admission was "by card only." Smith died in 1916 and his will stated that his home and his collection should be "converted into a public museum and gallery...for the use and benefit of the community in which I have lived." Smith believed that viewing art in the context of the picturesque surroundings of the Wissahickon Creek and Chestnut Hill would provide visitors with a unique experience. His will also stipulated that his second wife and son be allowed to live in the mansion as long as they lived. After lengthy proceedings in the Philadelphia Orphans' Court following the death of Smith's wife in 1936, the Woodmere Art Museum was officially established in 1940 with the support and guidance of the Art League of Germantown and the Chestnut Hill Art Center and with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as a consultant.

"Woodmere continues to honor and interpret Smith's vision of bringing art and nature together, and in recent years has acquired important examples of outdoor sculpture. Woodmere's [c]ollection consists of more than 6,000 works of art...[the core of which] includes important paintings by renowned [Philadelphia-area] artists such as Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Walter E. Schofield, Benjamin West, Frederic Edwin Church, Violet Oakley, Arthur B. Carles, and many more. Woodmere's nine galleries and salons, including a grand rotunda and a uniquely designated Children's Gallery, provide space for exhibitions and programs that serve the entire family...[T]he George D. Widener Studio, a converted carriage house, [hosts] a year-round roster of [art training] classes...[for] children and adults. The recent addition of the Children's Garden provides participants of Woodmere's Summer Arts Community Program with outdoor space to display and enjoy works of art. The Helen Millard Children's Gallery showcases exhibitions of student artwork from local schools." (Woodmere Art Museum, 2016)

Woodmere also offers a wide range of lectures, performances, and special events throughout the year.


Quoted text from: Woodmere Art Museum. "About." 2016. Accessed August 13, 2016.

Coy, Deborah. "Fruits of His Labor." Artfinding. Last updated April 21, 2010. Accessed August 17, 2016.

Lieberman, Michael. "The Woodmere Art Museum - Past, Present, and Future." Artblog. Last updated May 29, 2016. Accessed August 17, 2016.

Woodmere Art Museum records, circa 1920s-2016 (bulk 1940-2016), consist of administrative and financial records, exhibition materials, collection records, object files, artist files, publicity materials, publications, history and research materials relating to Woodmere, photographs, papers from former employees and others associated with Woodmere, and materials from local arts and community organizations including the Chestnut Hill Cultural Alliance, Chestnut Hill Community Association, and the Regional Council of Community Art Centers.

Administrative and financial records, circa 1940-2016, include: Board of Trustees minutes, financial reports, retreat materials, correspondence, and other materials Committee minutes and other records, primarily from the 1980s to the 2000s, including materials from the Building and Grounds Committee, Education Committee, Development Committee, Collection Management Committee, and other committees Department records, including materials from Curatorial, Conservation, Development, Education, and Membership Membership materials, circa 1970-2000s, including lists noting member name and membership status, correspondence, membership index cards, and other materials

Other administrative and financial records include general museum correspondence, papers of incorporation, accreditation materials, insurance and property inspection materials, renovation materials, visitor statistics, and other documents.

Exhibition materials, 1920s-2016, include: Exhibition files, 1940s-2016, containing correspondence and letters, programs and publicity materials, planning materials, handwritten notes, postcards, exhibition design sketches, lists of exhibitors, condition reports, loaned materials and object lists, newspaper clippings, exhibit and installation photographs and slides used for documentation and publicity purposes, sales receipts, exhibition research, and other materials relating to exhibitions at Woodmere Exhibition scrapbooks, 1940s-1980, containing press releases, programs, invitations and tickets, letters to members, newspaper clippings, and photographs Exhibition catalogs (several copies of each) from exhibitions at the Woodmere, as well as several copies of catalogs from a Violet Oakley exhibition at St. George's Gallery in Hanover Square, England, 1923, and other miscellaneous catalogs Materials relating to the Woodmere's annual juried exhibit, 1940s-1960s, including correspondence between the Woodmere and the Regional Council of Community Art Center (RCCAC), exhibit submission rules, newspapers clippings, programs, and other materials Materials relating to the juried exhibits of the Art League of Germantown, circa 1930s

Collection records, 1940s-2016, include appraisals and inventories of possible donations, deaccessioning files, materials on art storage and handling, curator's reports, gifts, and other related materials.

Object files, circa 1940s-2016, are organized by object number from the 1940s until about 1982, when the files started being organized by accession number. The files contain various types of information related to each object, including research; descriptions; administrative records related to the object's acquisition, accession, deaccessioning (if applicable), and overall management, such as condition reports, appraisals, documentation of purchase, and other records; photographs; handwritten notes, letters, and correspondence; a card from the object card catalog; exhibition history; and preservation notes. Note that materials relating to multiple objects can be in one folder, if the objects are from the same artist and under the same accession number.

Artist files, circa 1950s-2000s, include files, organized alphabetically by artist surname, on artists who approached the Woodmere about exhibiting work at the Museum. There are files for artists who eventually did exhibit work at the Woodmere, as well as files for artists who did not exhibit at the Museum. These files include correspondence, booklets from other shows where the artist's work was exhibited, research and biographies about artists, and slides, photographs, and VHS cassettes depicting artworks. If the artist exhibited at Woodmere, there are materials from the exhibition.

Publicity materials include press releases, programs, professional photographs, ephemera, and other materials from programs, performances, exhibitions, and other events at Woodmere.

Publications materials in the collection include items printed by Woodmere, such as booklets, programs, newsletters (The Crest), exhibition-related materials, mass mailing materials, MUSE (an art publication), annual reports, catalogs published by Charles Knox Smith of his collection and gallery, and other printed matter.

History and research materials include scrapbooks, circa 1960s-2000s, containing newspaper clippings that document the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia-area art scene and local exhibits, general news and history relating to Chestnut Hill, and other topics relevant to Woodmere and its community. There are also materials from research about Woodmere and its community, including computer print outs, newspapers, notes, and other materials.

Photographs, circa 1860s-2016, in the collection include prints and negatives, circa 1970s-2000s, depicting interiors and exteriors of Woodmere, formerly the Charles Knox Smith house; photographs, slides, contact sheets, and negatives of Woodmere events, such as programs, galas, open houses, and other activities; images of employees and other individuals associated with the Museum; photographs of Charles Knox Smith and his family; photographs of Joseph Ronald Boucut, and other individuals; and photographs, circa 1860s, of the original construction of what would become the Charles Knox Smith home (Woodmere).

Individual papers, 1920s-2000s, include materials from former employees and others who were associated with the Woodmere such as curators, directors, board members, and others. The following is a listing of some of these materials: Papers from Edith Emerson (1888-1981), who served as vice president, president, and curator from 1940 to 1980 and who was the life partner of Violet Oakley, include correspondence, insurance materials, newspaper clippings, board reports, several photographic negatives of installations, notes on artists and installations, materials relating to work she did with Regional Council of Community Art Centers, and collection management records such as inventories and appraisals, sales records, deeds of gift, accession and deaccession records, loans, and other materials. Emerson's papers also contain some personal photographs and a photo album she compiled. Papers from Patricia Van Burgh Allison (1923-1998), circa 1980s-1990s, a longtime member of the Woodmere's Board of Trustees and collector of Philadelphia art works, include Allison's personal writings (especially poetry), recipes, correspondence with art dealers and galleries, materials relating to art restoration including slides and correspondence, board meeting minutes, and other materials. Papers from Douglass Paschall, Curator of Collections from 2002 to circa 2010, include applications for the Triennial Exhibit at Woodmere, exhibition catalogs (some from Woodmere, some not), exhibition labels and other exhibition materials, correspondence, notes and research, publications, Paschall's CV, CDs and floppy disks with photographs, and other materials. Papers from Michael W. Schantz, Director and CEO from 1981-2010, include correspondence and memos organized into chronological files, exhibition files, and general director files.

There are also some materials from Bill Scott, a Philadelphia artist, writer, and member of Woodmere's board of trustees.

Also included in the collection are materials from local community organizations. Chestnut Hill Cultural Alliance records, circa 1990s-2000s, include minutes, directories, public relations and programming materials, photographic contact sheets, and mission statement and by-laws. Michael Schantz served as president and secretary of this group. Chestnut Hill Community Association records, 1990s-2000s, include agendas, meeting minutes, member lists, letters and memos, financial records, and reports. Regional Council of Community Art Centers records, circa 1950s-1960s, include correspondence, booklets and other materials on various art centers and art organizations, plans for exhibitions, and newspaper clippings. The Regional Council of Community Art Centers was an organization of community art centers in the Philadelphia-area that held yearly exhibitions and gave awards to local artists. Edith Emerson was involved with the organization, which was established in the early 1950s and continued until at least the early 1980s.

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 Woodmere Art Museum directly for more information.

Woodmere Art Museum
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
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.
Access Restrictions

Contact Woodmere Art Museum for information about accessing this collection. Some records, including financial materials, may be restricted.

Collection Inventory

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