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 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 Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building as it was before being renovated into the space it is today.
The structure that has occupied the hill on Fairmount since it opened to the public in 1928 is the subject of the first series, "Main 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 some of the Museum's major shows, and thus includes images of non-PMA objects lent for the event.
The third series, "Personnel and department spaces" pertains to the Museum's professional and support members, and the spaces in which they work, as well as to the Museum's officers, trustees, or other committee members and advisors. The images are grouped as "Directors, Presidents, and overseers," "Staff," and "Department spaces." Most of the departmental photographs depict the many activities and programs conducted by the Education and Community/Urban Outreach departments. The "Special events and visitors" series is grouped as “Openings and special events,” “Artists and visits,” “Celebrities/Personalities,” and “Visitors.” The images document many of the Museum's gala openings and events such as concerts, lectures, and special performances, as well as the diverse visitors to the Museum, from school children to celebrities. Most of the events date from the 1980s and 1990s. 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.
The “Publications” series contains a few publications by or relating to the Museum ranging from 1937 to 1999, including photographs include in the 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999 Annual Reports. Included in the "Related facilities" series are images of various Fairmount Park houses and the Perelman 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. "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 series, "Philadelphia views," includes aerial photographs of the area around the Museum, street photographs taken by Franklin D. Edmunds from 1899 to 1909, and some images of the Fairmount Water Works, located next to the Museum. The final series, “Art not in collection,” pertains primarily to objects that are not part of the Museum's collections. The photographs are grouped into art that is in Philadelphia, art that was or may have been offered to the PMA, and non PMA or unidentified art. Object-related photographs, which are all mounted and identified in a similar manner, suggest their 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.