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Helen E. Fernald papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives [Contact Us]3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104-6324

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Helen Elizabeth Fernald was born in 1891 in Baltimore, Maryland and died in 1964. Fernald attended high school in Amherst, Massachusetts where she graduated in 1910. Going on to receive her A.B. from Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, MA in 1914, Fernald was both an O.B.K. and Mary Lyon Scholar in Art and Archeology in Zoology. After graduation, Fernald attended art school at the Art Students League in New York City, from 1914-1915. While attending art school, Fernald worked as an artist and technician in the Department of Zoology at Columbia University. This position was held for three years, from 1915-1918. During this time, Fernald did her graduate work at Columbia Teachers’ College from 1916-1918. Then, from 1918-1921, Fernald became both an Instructor and Demonstrator in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. During her three years at Bryn Mawr from 1918-1921, Fernald also did graduate work at the institution.

From 1921-1935 Fernald was an employee of The University Museum in Philadelphia, PA. From 1921-1925, she was the head of the Educational Department. From 1925-1930, Fernald was the Assistant Curator of Far Eastern Art and from 1930-1935, she was the Curator.

In the summer of 1921, Fernald traveled abroad to Italy, Switzerland, France, and England. Because of this, she was unable to start her new position at The University Museum until September as head docent. Much of her time was spent looking for Far Eastern art pieces for the museum’s collection. Once Fernald became the Assistant Curator of Far Eastern Art, she was sent to study in Museums and Private Collections in Paris, at the British Museum in London and attended the International Congress of Oriental Societies at Oxford in 1928. Fernald’s time was spent looking at collections, lecturing and writing. At this time, Fernald was a member of both the American Oriental Society and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. During this time in Paris, Fernald was searching for frescoes and visited many private collections, especially the collection of Mr. C.T. Loo. In April of 1929, Fernald was approved to go to China, and so, from June-December of 1929, she was sent by the museum to Japan, Korea, and China to study collections or conduct scientific research. Despite the summer heat, Fernald managed to have a successful trip for the museum.

From 1932-1935, Fernald taught two courses at the museum: Series of seven Round Table Talks and Chinese Painting Seminar as well as teaching 23 lectures illustrated with lantern slides, called “Talks on Art Appreciation and History.” Upon leaving the museum in 1935, Fernald set out for Orlando, Florida where she corresponded with the museum sparingly for the next two years.

Fernald was most known for being a writer, art educator, painter, and lecturer and is remembered by numerous publications in The Museum Journal, various newspaper articles and reviews, lectures, and several books.

The Helen E. Fernald papers consist of two archival boxes of textual material of 0.8 linear feet. These boxes make of one series: correspondence, which are contained in eleven folders. The records have been compiled to and from Helen E. Fernald in chronological order.

The correspondence, dated from 1921-1937, consist primarily of letters to and from Helen E. Fernald regarding collections, lectures Fernald taught, articles she published, and her day-to-day activity while abroad as well as statements of expense accounts and receipts from abroad.

University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Gina Gariffo
Finding Aid Date

Collection Inventory

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