Historical Note


As Museum Archivist Louise Rossmassler recalled in 1983, the Museum initiated its Archives in 1975 during the installation of an air-conditioning system throughout the building. "The Director, Evan Turner, recognized the opportunity to gather together the scattered collections of ... records so that they would be available for research use." He also took advantage of the offer of Gertrude Toomey, the Museum's retired registrar, to help with the project. The following year, Merle Chamberlain, who had been a volunteer in the Museum Library, was appointed the Museum's first archivist, with Toomey's part-time assistance. From 1976 to 1977, the Archives functioned as an independent office. By 1978, it became part of the Library.

Before retiring in 1982, Chamberlain wrote the first two editions of the Inventory of the Archives, the first publication giving staff and outside researchers intellectual access to its holdings. Louise Rossmassler, who succeeded Chamberlain as archivist, wrote the next two editions of the inventory. Upon Rossmassler's retirement in 1987, Alice Lefton became archivist. She served until 1991 when operation of the Archives was temporarily suspended. Because of the volunteer service of Rossmassler, however, the Archives was able to continue to operate on a limited basis. Because of Rossmassler's efforts, staff and scholars could still access records and continue their research. In 1998, the Museum reopened the Archives on a full-time basis, appointing Susan Anderson as museum archivist. Anderson continues to serve in that position. Rossmassler continues to volunteer.

Works Consulted

Inventory of the Archives. 3rd edition. Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 1983.