Most of the photographs in this record group give a pictorial history of the Museum, its collections and diverse programs--from drawings submitted in 1895 for the building's design competition, to the 1970 draping of the Great Stair Hall by the artist Christo and a 1996 symposium on the history of art. Also included are photographs of related facilities, such as the Fairmount Park houses, of which two are administered by the Museum, and the Art Deco building across the street from the Museum, which now known as the Ruth and Raymond G. Perleman Building will operate as an extension of the Museum's gallery and office spaces.
The structure that has occupied the hill on Fairmount since it opened to the public in 1928 is the subject of the first series, "Building." The "Design" subseries consists of photographs of the drawings, floor plans and models documenting the various proposals and approved design. Most of the photographs of the "Construction" subseries were commissioned by the builder George A. Fuller Co. for the architects, Trumbauer, Zantzinger & Borie. Originally in four bound volumes, these photographs give a weekly progress report of the building's construction between 1926 and 1928, including exterior, interior and aerial views and architectural details. The final subseries, "Views," consists primarily of early images of the Museum's exterior and interior. The second series, "Collections" documents the fine and decorative art objects that comprise the Museum's holdings. Photographs of individual pieces are grouped in the "Objects" subseries, while views of galleries and period rooms make up the "Installations" subseries. The final subseries, "Exhibitions," documents a few of the Museum's major shows, and thus includes images of non-PMA objects lent for the event.
The third series, "Personnel and services" pertains to the Museum's professional and support members, and the work they do, as well as to the Museum's officers, trustees or other committee members and advisors. The images are grouped as "Staff," "Officers and other overseers," and "Departments." Most of the departmental photographs depict the many activities and programs conducted by the Education and Community/Urban Outreach departments. Incomplete sets of photographs used in several Museum publications comprise the "Public services" subseries. The "Special events and visitors" series documents many of the Museum's gala openings and events such as concerts, lectures and special performances. Most of the events date from the 1980s and 1990s. The series also offers a pictorial record of the diverse visitors to the Museum, from school children to celebrities. Almost all the photographs in this series and certain images in other series were compiled by Joanna Hynes, who joined the Museum in 1980, and held positions as staff writer and communications officer, respectively, in the executive, publications, and development offices.
Included in the "Related facilities" series are images of various Fairmount Park houses and the Museum's latest facility, the Pereleman Building. Memorial Hall, the Museum's original home constructed for the Centennial, is also represented in this series. In addition to a few photographs of its exterior and certain offices, most of the images pertain to the installation of the Indian pillared temple in 1919-1920. Photographs of the sculpted pillars spread out on the lawn like puzzle pieces as well as mounted cut-outs of each architectural element are included. For the School of Industrial Arts, which was formally part of the Museum until 1964, there is a portrait of its first principal, Leslie W. Miller. "Other buildings" consists of a print of Horace Trumbauer's 1918 drawing of the proposed John G. Johnson Memorial and Art Gallery, which was planned to be built on the Parkway, as well as photographs of the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial. The final series, "Other," pertains primarily to objects that are not part of the Museum's collections and to sites other than the Museum in the City of Philadelphia. A set of object-related photographs, which are all mounted and identified in a similar manner, suggests its possible use as an educational or study tool. Another extensive set of photographs document the moving and re-erecting of the monument of George Washington on horseback, created by Rudolf Siemering and dedicated in 1897. The Fairmount Park Commission had the monument moved in the winter of 1925 to its current location in Eakins Oval, across the street from the Museum's east entrance. The photographs, originally housed in one photo album, were probably commissioned by the contractor for the move. Like the building construction photographs, each is dated and numbered. There is no explanation, however, for the gap of more than 20 images in this photographic chronology, which jumps from January to October 1926. Photographs of the city include two aerials views and a few images of the Fairmount Water Works, which is also a neighbor of the Museum.