Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955
Langdon Warner, a scholar of Asian art and an archeologist, was Director of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art from 1917 to 1923. Warner also served as Curator of the Wilstach Collection (the Wilstach family art collection was bequeathed to the city in 1892 and custodianship was transferred to the Museum in 1917). While serving as Director of the Museum, Warner traveled extensively in Asia and was often away from the Museum. Almost immediately after taking the job, he departed for Japan where he set about acquiring works of art that "were thought too good to lose." In Warner’s absence, E. Hamilton Bell was the Museum’s Acting Director, from December 1917 to January 1919. When Warner left the Museum in 1923, S. W. Woodhouse became the Acting Director.
Warner was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1881. He attended Harvard University where he was introduced to the field of archeology by Raphael Pumpelly. Warner was also a member of the 1903 Pumpelly-Carnegie expedition to Russian Turkestan. After graduating from Harvard in 1903, he went to Japan in preparation for a position as Associate Curator of Asiatic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which he held from 1906 to 1913. In 1913, he became the Director of the American School of Archeology in Peking, China, and left that position in 1917 to come to Philadelphia.
Warner established the Museum's Division of Eastern Art in 1917. He was also integral in establishing the Children’s Museum in the basement of Memorial Hall in 1918, and the Print department in 1923. A donation in 1919, from the family of Adeline Pepper Gibson, initiated the Museum’s tradition of installing period rooms. The gift of several granite architectural sculptures from the temple city of Madurai were assembled first at Memorial Hall before being permanently installed in the new Museum two decades later as the Pillared Hall from a Temple (Mandapa) . This was followed, in 1922, by the installation of the Tower Hill Room from London, purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. McIlhenny. During Warner’s tenure, plans for the new Museum building were finalized and construction began in July of 1919.
After his tenure as Director of the Museum, he returned to Harvard University as a Lecturer in Fine Arts and later as Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum of Art. A notable period of Warner’s later career was his work as a consultant to the the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section during World War II. Members of this project, called the “Monuments Men,” were charged with ensuring the safety of fine arts and cultural treasures during the course of the armed conflict, both in Europe and in the Pacific Arena. During this time Warner is credited with protecting the cities of Nara and Kyoto from damage during the allied bombings, effectively preserving two highly significant cultural heritage sites in Japan. Warner died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1955; after his death, Japan awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasures.
Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:
Correspondence from John Palmer Leeper, Director of the Pasadena Art Institute, to Walter and Louise Arensberg.
Correspondence from Ralph Barton Perry, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, to Walter Arensberg.
Langdon Warner, a scholar of Asian art and an archaeologist, was Director of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art from 1917 to 1923. Warner also served as Curator of the Wilstach Collection. 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 while he traveled in Asia.