Scope and Content Note


As director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), Anne d'Harnoncourt once observed that art museums, particularly those in big cities, are very intense places. For the professionals who work there, she thought it amazing for any to establish a "big life" outside their institution. While the Anne d'Harnoncourt Papers make evident that art to d'Harnoncourt was both a professional and personal passion, this material also reveals that her life outside PMA was indeed big as she involved herself with people and organizations, local, national, and international, to keep all the arts relevant and essential in building and bridging communities. Most of the material traces her professional development in and away from the Museum and consists primarily of correspondence, press clippings, photographs of works of art and events, draft lectures and notes, and a number of certificates, citations and object awards. Several photos and papers pertaining to her husband and Museum colleague, Joseph J. Rishel, are also included. Family papers and photographs and school records comprise d'Harnoncourt's personal papers and collectively suggest how her family and early education provided the groundwork for her interests, convictions and goals. Her father, René d'Harnoncourt, is most prevalent in the family files, primarily as the subject of third-party correspondence and author of a few personal writings.

Arranged in subseries of date spans, Series I, "Correspondence and other materials," begins with a few letters pertaining to d'Harnoncourt's second museum job as an assistant curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by documentation of her 1971 return to PMA that continues through her 25 year tenure at the Museum until her death in 2008. Periodic groups of letters of congratulations indicate significant moments in her career, while other correspondence addresses d'Harnoncourt's contribution of time, advice, and/or funds and other gifts to various cultural institutions and causes. Memorabilia, most associated with PMA, and various reference materials make up "Other records." Based on the documentation of Series II, "Remarks and recognitions," d'Harnoncourt gave nearly 80 talks outside the Museum over a 30-year period, from lectures and symposiums to dinner remarks and college commencements. During the course of nearly a quarter of a century, she also received more than 40 awards and honorary degrees (two given posthumously). Documentation for most of these events consists of the notes d'Harnoncourt prepared for her remarks, correspondence, ephemera, a few photographs that capture the special occasion unfolding, and certificates and objects awarded to her. Most of the photographs and press clippings that comprise Series III, "Photographs and publicity" also chronicle milestones in d'Harnoncourt's career. Photos document PMA and non-PMA events, with snapshots capturing some of the more informal gatherings. Rishel appears with d'Harnoncourt in many photos and is featured in some of the press clippings. Over the course of her career, d'Harnoncourt served as an active member, advisor or trustee to nearly 60 cultural institutions. Series IV, "Professional affiliations" pertains to a significant number of those institutions, which ranged from universities and learned societies to private foundations and museums.

The three subseries comprising Series V. "Personal papers," document d'Harnoncourt's family, primarily her parents and Austrian cousins, and her student years, from grade school to graduate school. Several personal items from her childhood and teenage years are also included. Not surprisingly, the person most prevalent in the family material is her father, René d'Harnoncourt, best known for his 1949 to 1968 tenure as director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. He is included in this collection primarily as the subject of third-party correspondence and author of a few personal writings. The "School records" subseries consist of notebooks, term papers, school bulletins and other materials, documenting her studies from grade to graduate school. Most of that material pertains to her undergraduate years at Radcliffe College. In a separate subgroup, a few poems and drawings by d'Harnoncourt, as well as a children's book printed in German, give an idea to the musings of a young mind.

Works Consulted

MoMA interview. Need correct citation