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
Sara Yorke Stevenson (1847-1921) was born in Paris, where she lived and attended school until she was 16 years old. Her parents, affluent and socially prominent Americans originally from Louisiana, left Sara and her sister at boarding school in Paris and moved to Mexico in 1858. Sara joined them in Mexico in 1862, but moved to Vermont five years later and soon afterward moved to Philadelphia. In 1870, she married Cornelius Stevenson, a Philadelphia lawyer with whom she had a son in 1878. Stevenson was closely involved with creating both the University Archaeological Association and the Department of Archaeology and Paleontology, the two organizations that merged and eventually became the Penn Museum. In 1891, she accepted an appointment as curator of the Egyptian Section; in 1892, she also became curator of the Mediterranean Section. In addition to her curatorial responsibilities, she succeeded Stewart Culin as secretary of the Board of Managers in 1894 and served as secretary until 1904, when she became president and chairman. In early 1905, however, she resigned both from the Board and as curator.
Stevenson’s contributions to the early organization of the Museum were many. She actively participated in committees that drafted the rules for the new enterprise, outlined the responsibilities of its director, and developed plans for a new building. She was also instrumental in raising funds for Museum operations and expeditions. In 1897, she and others founded the American Exploration Society, a fund-raising entity designed to support archaeological explorations that would strengthen the Museum’s collections. Under Stevenson’s direction, the Museum greatly expanded its holdings of artifacts from Etruria, Crete, Cyprus, and Egypt.
Beyond her tireless efforts on behalf of the museum, Stevenson was the first woman to be appointed to the Jury of Awards for Ethnology at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the first woman to lecture at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. In Philadelphia, she was president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Oriental Club, and the Civic Club as well as a member of the American Philosophical Society. The University of Pennsylvania awarded her with an honorary doctorate of sciences in 1894 and she became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1895. She also served as president of the Equal Franchise Society of Pennsylvania, authored two books, and wrote as a columnist for the Philadelphia Public Ledger.
The textual records comprising the Sara Yorke Stevenson curatorial subgroup consist primarily of correspondence about developing the Mediterranean collection. These records are divided into two series. Series 1 includes correspondence about acquiring potential collections; Series 2 contains documentation about collections that have been acquired. Records within each folder are arranged chronologically, with undated material grouped at the end.
The correspondence in Series 1 includes letters between Sara Yorke Stevenson and donors, antiquities dealers, and archaeologists from 1890 to 1905. Correspondents include Lucy Wharton Drexel, Alfred Emerson, and Edward Perry Warren.
The collections information in Series 2 includes inventories, shipping confirmations, and financial receipts of collections procured primarily from Cyprus and Italy between 1875 and 1904.
- Drexel, Lucy Wharton, b. 1838-d.1912
- Frothingham, Arthur L.
- Hearst, Phoebe Apperson, 1842-1919
- Stevenson, Sara Yorke, 1847-1921
- Wanamaker, John, 1838-1922
- Williams, Talcott, 1849-1928
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
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