Archaeological Institute of America Philadelphia Society
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.
Overview and metadata sections
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE OF AMERICA, PHILADELPHIA SOCIETY
Charles Eliot Norton, chairman of the Art History Department at Harvard, established the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in 1879. He sought to provoke a cultural awakening in America by stimulating classical scholarship. Believing that American students and teachers could be enlightened by direct exposure to monuments of antiquity, Norton set the institute's sights on excavation and publication. Although some early members of the AIA thought that the organization should focus on the Native American remains, the main interest has always centered on America's classical heritage. Within three years the AIA had sponsored excavations at Assos in northwestern Turkey and opened the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. By 1886 the AIA was publishing the American Journal of Archaeology, still the primary American periodical on classical archaeology.
From the start the AIA was to be a national organization. It was five years before the founding Cambridge group was joined by societies in New York and Baltimore. Philadelphia followed in 1888/89 as the fourth local society with twenty-three charter members, led by Dr. William Pepper as president. The Philadelphia group began at the time of the beginning of the University Museum and supported archaeological exploration with enthusiasm. As one of its initial projects, the Philadelphia society aided the University of Pennsylvania in the excavation of Nippur in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
Initially, each society functioned as a fairly autonomous group, securing speakers for its lecture meetings and collecting its own membership dues. For many years the national organization relied on handouts from the local groups who turned over at year's end any unused funds. Eventually this situation was reversed, with the national organization collecting dues and giving a rebate based on membership to the individual societies. Consequently the AIA had sufficient funding to support a national lecture program which provided each local society with three lectures annually by noted American and foreign scholars. The society's activities focus on these lectures supplemented by talks given by scholars from local institutions.
The membership of the society has combined a core of professional academics and students, and interested lay members. Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania have provided the largest group of members. Nearly every professor in the departments of archaeology at these two institutions has served as a society officer. Rodney Young and James Pritchard from the University of Pennsylvania each served as president of the national organization (respectively 1969-72 and 1973-74), and Mary Hamilton Swindler and Brunhilde Ridgway, both of Bryn Mawr College, were editors of the American Journal of Archaeology (respectively 1931-45 and 1978-86). Machteld Mellink, chairman of the Archaeology Department at Bryn Mawr, served as national president from 1980 to 1984.
The Depression of the early 1930s not only caused a decline in membership in the Philadelphia society but also left the national organization so short of funds that it was forced to plead for help from the local societies. By 1937 the AIA had freed itself from debt and experienced a modest rise in activity. The war situation then curtailed the local lecture program. Society minutes of the time show that people were most concerned with the possibility of having to suspend the buffet that usually followed a lecture. Various members were importuned to underwrite the food service for the then princely sum of twenty-five dollars for fifty people.
Starting from its first group of 23 members, the Philadelphia society has grown into an organization of approximately 250 professional and lay persons gathering at seven or eight local lecture meetings a year, half at the University Museum and half at Bryn Mawr College, and sending many delegates to the annual meeting of the national organization. At the time of its centennial in 1979, the AIA boasted 7,000 members in 85 societies. The Philadelphia society has remained one of the more active and vigorous of the local groups. It had 274 members in 1990.
PHOEBE A. SHEFTEL Served from 1970 to 1983 as Secretary/treasurer, Vice-president and President The archives of the Philadelphia society are housed in the University Museum. Sheftel, Phoebe A. "The Archaeological Institute of America, 1879- 1979: A Centennial Review," American Journal of Archaeology 83 (1979): 3- 17.
Source: Invisible Philadelphia: Community Through Voluntary Organizations Eds. – Jean Barth Toll and Mildred S. Gillam Pub. – Atwato Kent museum, Philadelphia, 1995 Pp. 894-5
Scope and Contents Note
The records from the Philadelphia Society of the Archaeological Institute of America were donated in 1986 by Phoebe A. Sheftel; the former secretary and president of the AIA. These records consist of correspondence, financial records, general information, and minute books. The arrangement of the records reflects the original order, which in this case is done by year, beginning in 1930 and ending in 1964. The material has been divided into three series: general information, minute books, and chronological records.
The general information consists of basic content about the AIA, which does not pertain to any specific year. Such documents consist of the rules and by-laws of the organization.
The minute books series consists of two folders. The first of which holds the original minute book, which dates from the late 1930s to around 1945. On the inside of the front cover it is stated that this is the second of such books. We have no records of the original minute book. The second of such folders holds that information from the original minute book of the previous folder which was not properly attached inside. Other information which would be placed into this category may be mixed into the other folders of the collection.
The chronological records consist of such things as correspondence between various members of the institution, discussions about and invitations to various lecture meetings, financial records such as checks, bills, and receipts (all of these were removed for a lack of importance), and some obituaries. For many documents in this series, only the carbon paper copy remains.
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Sara Spector
- Finding Aid Date
- 16 May 2012