The Jean Sutherland Boggs records contain the general correspondence and administrative records of the first woman to direct the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The records date from 1977 to 1983 and include correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, financial records, departmental and curatorial files, and other museum related records. The files also contain correspondence and materials received from other institutions and museum colleagues, as well as letters received from the general public.
These records are arranged in a single series. The series is arranged chronologically by fiscal year, and each fiscal year is arranged alphabetically. Folders are filed by names of individuals, organizations or museum subjects. Much of the correspondence of 1979, Jean Boggs’ first year at the museum, consists of letters of welcome and congratulations from both the Philadelphia community and the museum community at large, which she always answered with a personal note. As an Edgar Degas scholar, Boggs was frequently contacted to discuss the artist. The museum’s acquisition of the Degas painting titled After the Bath is discussed in letters and memoranda. Other records concern acquisition proposals from collectors and curators. The 1981 execution of the Sol LeWitt wall drawing No. 351 (“On a Blue Ceiling…”) is documented in a series of memoranda. The correspondence between Boggs, Anne D’Harnoncourt, and Jasper Johns offers more insights into the working relationships between directors and artists. Other materials include newspaper and magazine clippings related to Boggs’ appointment to her post and retrospective assessments of her short but influential tenure, photographs of Boggs and artwork, ephemera, and one audio recording. Boggs authored editorials and public addresses, and copies of working and final versions can be found throughout the collection. Many records concern her association with professional organizations such as the Association of Art Museum Directors.
The Museum’s relationship with the city is recorded in several places, usually concerning financial matters. Meeting agenda, minutes, memoranda, and newspaper clippings offer information on this topic. Other records relate to the stewardship of collections shared by the city of Philadelphia and the museum. These may be found in folders labeled “Fairmount Park Houses.” Other organizations represented in this collection include the architectural firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown. Boggs corresponded with the firm at the beginning of the assessment project that led to the redesign of the Museum’s entrance. Boggs also communicated with the firm on the subject of a historic ticket booth located outside the Fox Theatre in Philadelphia. The records include photographs and the Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown assessment of this architectural feature. During Boggs’ tenure, the museum worked with local television producers (Channel 57) to create a short educational series about the museum and its collections. Memoranda, summaries, and transcripts document the production process and audio commentary of each episode.
Museum subjects include specific administrative, curatorial, education, and development departments. Researchers should note that some departments and committee entities changed names during this period. For example, the Arms and Armor Department was still called Armor and Arms in the 1970s, but changed names during Boggs’ tenure. The naming conventions were preserved and records of this department should be sought under both names. Records concerning the conservation department and its treatments are present throughout. Another department with significant representation is the Department of Community Programs (formerly the Department of Urban Outreach). There are reports, publications and memoranda regarding programs at the museum administered Fleisher Art Memorial and Thomas Eakins House Community Center as well as other projects undertaken by this department. Large portions of each fiscal year are dedicated to budget planning and development. A five-year plan was developed during this time period and several versions with comments from staff members are stored here. Each fiscal year includes extensive records regarding proposals to grant funding entities such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation.The Boggs office also kept extensive exhibition records. Manifestations of Shiva was one of the major exhibits mounted by the museum during Boggs’ tenure (in 1981), and all of the stages of the event, from planning through programming, are documented in this collection.
The collection for the 1982-1983 fiscal year is followed by two groups of records that were originally filed separately. The first is a set called “Outlogs” and it consists of carbon copies of outgoing letters from the director’s office, which are arranged in two runs of records, the first alphabetically and the second chronologically. The second group is a set of records marked “Confidential.” These were also filed separately in the director’s office and they include records from the office of Arnold H. Jolles. Jolles was the Acting Director of the museum from Evan H. Turner’s departure in 1977 until Jean Sutherland Boggs’ arrival in 1979. For this reason, there is an overlap in records for the fiscal year 1978-1979.
Jean Sutherland Boggs headed the museum briefly, from March 1979 to June 30, 1982, but she made significant and lasting contributions to the development of the museum’s policies, operational procedures, administrative structure, and collections management practices; these contributions are well documented in these records. Additionally, the records held in this collection reflect the prevalent trends in museum collection management and general administration of the era. Those interested in repatriation issues will find correspondence concerning the Teotihuacan Fresco in the museum’s collection and inquiries about its possible return to Mexico. Researchers of the museum’s organizational structure will find staff lists, applications for curatorial positionsm, and descriptions of departmental activities.