The Langdon Warner records contain correspondence of Langdon Warner, Museum Director between 1917 and 1923, and E. Hamilton Bell, Acting Director during Warner’s absence. At the time, the Museum's collections were housed in Fairmount Park's Memorial Hall. The correspondence mainly concerns the Museum's facilities, collections, exhibitions and purchases. This collection is divided into two series: Series “I. Director’s correspondence”, covering the period from 1917 to 1923, and Series “II. Acting Director E. Hamilton Bell correspondence”, dating from 1918 to 1929. Due to previous filing conventions, E. Hamilton Bell’s correspondence is found throughout both series, although the series name suggests a separation of materials.
The series “I. Director’s correspondence” dates from 1917 to 1923 and contains mainly correspondence between museum officers and the Director’s office. Warner corresponded extensively with museum affiliates such as John D. McIlhenny and Leslie W. Miller, Principal of the School of Industrial Art as well as Asian art scholars and administrators of other institutions. An important portion of Warner’s correspondence concerns Asian artifacts and archeological activities. Some of the exchanges concern exhibit design and discuss details such as display cases and lighting. The Children’s Museum, founded during Warner’s tenure, is a recurring subject which is observed in the exchanges with Mary E. Sinnott, the owner of a doll collection used by this department. There is a brief exchange with Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, one of the primary architectural firms involved with the construction of the new Museum building. Other notable correspondents include Belle Da Costa Greene, librarian of the J. Pierpont Morgan library and John Cotton Dana of the Newark Museum Association and the Free Public Library of Newark. The somewhat idiosyncratic alphabetical arrangement established by previous record keepers was maintained; consequently, correspondents may be alphabetized by name, institutional affiliation, or geographical location. An example of this is correspondence with the Royal Ontario Museum of Archeology, found under “Toronto”; another is the correspondence with John Cotton Dana, filed under “Newark”.
Series “II. Acting Director E. Hamilton Bell correspondence” is a very small series comprised of E. Hamilton Bell’s correspondence during his period as Acting Director; this series dates from 1918 to 1929 and is arranged alphabetically by name or subject. From December 1917 through January 1919, E. Hamilton Bell was Acting Director while Warner was away in the Far East. Bell also was the Curator of the John J. Johnson Collection, another city-owned collection, from 1917 until his death in 1929. Henri Marceau was his Assistant Curator for the Johnson Collection. Bell was Co-Editor, along with Horace H. F. Jayne and Langdon Warner, of a journal called Eastern Art . Because of his continued involvement in Museum affairs, more of Bell’s correspondence can be found in the first series as well. Series II. includes correspondence with John D. McIlhenny (President of the Museum's Board of Trustees and art collector), the Commissioners of Fairmount Park, a proposal regarding the Children’s Museum, and an exchange concerning Japanese art collections.
This collection will be of interest to those researching the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, the network of museum administrators in early twentieth century North America, early archeological exploration and collection of Asian art and artifacts, and Langdon Warner.