The Director’s Exhibition records of the Philadelphia Museum of Art contain documentation of exhibition activities at the Museum. These records are not a comprehensive account of exhibitions held by the Museum, but an ongoing file produced by the executive office in the course of administering exhibitions for the Museum, kept in the Director’s office between 1915 and 1981. Additional exhibition records may be located within a specific Director’s records, or in Curatorial records; Museum Directors during this period included Edwin Atlee Barber, Langdon Warner, Fiske Kimball, Henri Gabriel Marceau, Evan Turner, and Jean Sutherland Boggs.
The Exhibition records are arranged chronologically by year in a single series. Each year is organized chronologically by the opening date of the exhibitions, although records in the files may pre- or post-date the exhibition dates. In other collections, such as Directors’ and Curatorial records, exhibitions are often identified by a working title; however, in this collection, every attempt has been made to identify the records with the formal name of the exhibition. The exhibition master list created by the Archives may be consulted to establish the preferred exhibition name and opening date. When possible, the opening events for new galleries are included in the exhibition chronology by the date of the formal opening event. Other projects, including proposed and rejected exhibitions, will be found at the end of a year. During Jean Sutherland Boggs’ tenure, the bulk of the financial records were arranged together at the end of the exhibition chronology; this arrangement has been maintained. These folders are arranged by fiscal year, starting with 1980, and then alphabetically within each fiscal year. One set was originally labeled "fiscal year 1981 accounts", followed by the folder title. This was also maintained along with the original alphabetical arrangement. Non-exhibit events are included in this alphabet and some exhibits were ordered by the last name of the artist rather than the title of the show. A final set of folders maintained by the Boggs office was labeled “rejected exhibitions.” This legacy filing system was also maintained: folders are arranged alphabetically by the institution or individual who proposed the exhibition. Some of these folder titles include the dates proposed for the exhibition. Records for rejected proposals from within the museum are also included here, further arranged by the name of the staff member submitting the proposal.
Some of the exhibition files are as spare as one promotional item, such as an invitation, announcement, or poster. Some exhibits are represented by more comprehensive documentation and folders may contain correspondence, reports, and memoranda from multiple sources within the Museum, as well as printed materials, including invitations, posters, events announcements, press releases, press clippings, and published catalogs. Many files contain object documentation, including registrar’s records, photographs, and lists associated with an exhibition. Some Museum sponsored competitions, which culminated in juried exhibitions of sculpture and photography, are also included in this collection; those files may contain artist applications and materials that document jury proceedings. A notable example of this is the 2nd International Photography Salon (1933 May 6) where letters from Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston and Paul Strand may be found.
Records may include information about the inception, preparation, and mounting of an exhibition, as well as special projects and events that were scheduled to take place during the exhibition. Financial reports and documentation of loans of artwork, insurance, shipping and damages are often included in the documentation of larger exhibitions. Traveling exhibitions originating at the Museum are documented, as well as exhibitions arranged co-operatively as loan exhibitions; documentation from other venues is sometimes present. The legacy term “circulating exhibitions” was maintained wherever it was specifically associated with the original folder title. An interesting example of an exchange exhibition is Masterpieces of Modern Art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art —in working files often referred to only as “the Exchange Exhibit”-- which was sent to the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, India, shortly before the Manifestations of Shiva exhibition opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
These records would be of interest to researchers studying the history and trends of museum exhibitions in general, or those interested in the evolution of specific exhibitions and types of programing initiated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some files may provide information about the provenance of specific objects or art works, and promotional materials offer insight into graphic design and printing trends during this period.