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September 1st, 2000
Museum Archives Receive Unprecedented Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced the award of $750,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will support the Museum's efforts to catalogue and enhance access to five valuable and resource-rich archival collections: the Louise and Walter Arensberg Archives; the Marcel Duchamp Research Collection; the John G. Johnson Collection Archives; the Lloyd Goodrich and Edith Havens Goodrich, Whitney Museum of American Art, Record of Works by Thomas Eakins; and the Fiske Kimball Collections. The grant, which is the largest ever received by the Archives of the Museum, will fund arrangement, description, and cataloguing of the collections according to current archival standards, utilizing Encoded Archival Description (or EAD, a new electronic formatting standard). The resulting record-group descriptions, known as finding aids, will then be made available on the Internet through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), making possible broad scholarly engagement with these resources.

"The Mellon Foundation has a longstanding history of support for the most essential functions of an art museum-conservation, scholarly research, and publication of collections," said Ms. d'Harnoncourt. "We are profoundly grateful to the Foundation for this generous award, which will benefit scholars around the world by enabling the Museum to document and disseminate these unique archival collections, using the very latest technologies."

Each of the archival collections selected for the Mellon-sponsored initiative contains documents, manuscripts, and photographs relating to internationally recognized figures who made key contributions to the Museum's history and its distinguished collections of art:

  • Walter and Louise Arensberg were visionary collectors who formed one of the most significant collections of modern art in the United States. The Arenbergs gave their holdings to the Museum in 1950, making Philadelphia home to numerous masterpieces by Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Pablo Picasso, and Piet Mondrian, among many others.
  • Thanks to the Arensbergs' generosity, the Museum houses the world's largest and most important collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, whose influence continues to be felt among artists around the world. In 1973, the Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized a major retrospective of his work.
  • Bequeathed to the City of Philadelphia in 1917, the John G. Johnson Collection of 1,271 paintings contains most of the Renaissance paintings at the Museum, and a large number of 17th-century Dutch paintings, as well as important works by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and other 19th-century artists. A great corporate lawyer, Johnson was an important figure in the American museum world at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Philadelphia's outstanding painter of the 19th century, Thomas Eakins has since earned notable international acclaim, and the Museum's Galleries of American Art present the preeminent collection of his work (Eakins will be the subject of an exhibition at the Museum from October to December, 2001).
  • The distinguished architectural historian Fiske Kimball was the Museum's director from 1925 to 1955. During his energetic tenure, the Museum completed its magnificent neoclassical "Temple on Fairmount," first installed the Johnson Collection in its galleries, and received the Arensbergs' landmark holdings and the contents of Eakins' studio, among other pivotal achievements. Kimball was also among the first to recognize the importance and distinction of the historic houses in Fairmount Park.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art joins The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art as one of four major institutions participating in the Mellon Foundation-sponsored Museum Archives Initiative. In addition to funding key archival efforts, the Mellon Foundation in recent decades has supported conservation, scholarly publications and endowed curatorial positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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