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Fairmount Park Commission, 1986-1991

 File — Box: 44, Folder: 13

Scope and Contents

From the Sub-Series:

The first major fundraising campaign d'Harnoncourt oversaw as director was the Landmark Renewal Fund, originally planned to run from 1986 to 1991. The goal of the campaign was to raise $50 million for endowment increases, building improvements and a bridge fund to support operations until the new endowments began generating income. Later in the campaign, the goal was increased another $10 million to fund a major overhaul of the Museum's European art collection. According to later press releases, the campaign concluded in 1993, raising more than $64 million. While the campaign was launched in 1986, its two-part planning began five years earlier during Jean Sutherland Boggs' tenure. In 1981, the architectural firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown prepared a long-range plan that called for the significant rearrangement and renovation of the building's interior space. A copy of this comprehensive plan is included in a "Building" folder in the preceding subseries. In 1985, to determine the financing of this ambitious plan, the Museum's Oversight Committee engaged C.W. Shaver & Co., a management consulting and fund-raising firm, to ascertain the feasibility of a major capital campaign. Their findings comprise the two "Capital campaign" folders, also in the preceding subseries.

In this subseries, a detailed account of the initiation and goals of the campaign is provided in a 1986 report filed as "Development Department: Campaign case statement draft." As listed in the report's table of contents, the campaign title likely stemmed from the building improvements subheading, "A Renewed Landmark Building." Five folders titled "Landmark Renewal Fund" document the launching and tracking of the campaign, and the Museum's efforts to solicit funds from individuals and foundations. In addition to correspondence and funding reports, a campaign packet is included. Intended no doubt as a fundraising handout, the packet consists of several summary sheets and printed material, including campaign newsletters, a detailed booklet and individual information sheets of each of the departments that would benefit from the campaign; namely all curatorial departments, registrar, education, publications, and the library and archives. While the success of the campaign exceeded original expectations, not all goals were met. To remedy the cramped space and disparate locations of the library, archives and slide library, the campaign sought to unite the three offices in expanded quarters. It would take another 17 years before such improvements occurred when in 2007 the three offices and their collections moved to state-of-the art facilities across the street to the Museum's Perelman Building, which also houses many of the curatorial and administrative offices and new gallery spaces.

A building improvement that was realized and documented here is the "West foyer project." The same architectural firm that prepared the comprehensive plan, Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, designed and oversaw execution of this renovation. The most noticeable change was the installation of the elliptical information desk in the center of the foyer. Capped off with neon-colored plexiglass griffins, the mythical animals that serve as the Museum's icon, the desk, as described in a 1989 Philadelphia newspaper review, was a wake up and shake up to this "once-somber anteroom" with the effect similar to "a little kid yanking the bedcovers off his snoring, snoozing mom and dad." Documentation consists of correspondence, including grant-related writings, clippings, notes, drawings, including two oversized blueprints, and a number of minutes from the design review meetings of the architects and pertinent Museum staff. Minutes offer discussion of other aspects of the west foyer project, as well as improvements to the Museum's east entrance.

The most ambitious project funded by the Landmark campaign was the renovation, reinstallation, and reinterpretation of the Museum's European art collection. This project was the incentive for raising the campaign's goal an additional $10 million. Referred to by staff as the "Reinstallation project," this project was also first considered in the 1981 comprehensive plan. From planning to completion, the project took nearly 15 years to be fully realized. Its records are in the "Long-term records" series. Documentation of the campaign's funding efforts continues and concludes with two "Landmark" folders in the 1992-1996 subseries.

Although coincidental in timing, the Museum participated in a Getty Focus Group project during the course of the Landmark campaign and related projects that afforded yet another opportunity to study ways to improve the museum visitor's experience. A small set of files document the initial 1988 focus group visits and the seminar held the following year involving all participating museums. Sponsored by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts and the J. Paul Getty Museum, the study project required PMA to hold two sessions of two focus groups. Although there is little documentation of the Museum's preparation for the groups, d'Harnoncourt's extensive notes recording their reactions are included, as is a list of participant demographics. A memo submitted in 1990 by Daniel Rice, then Curator of Education at the Museum, to the director of Getty's Education Center covers a synopsis of three projects undertaken by PMA intended to address some of the perceived needs uncovered in the focus group sessions. The projects consisted of redesigning the museum map, improving the didactic materials and signage in the 20th century galleries, and reinstalling collections. The last project, for which d'Harnoncourt was listed as staff contact, was of course the "Reinstallation project" referenced above, which was well underway by that time. Included in the same folder is a 1989 report of the research done in the past decade about art museum visitors. That same year, Getty hosted its seminar comprised of some of the museums participating in its focus group experiment. As noted in the bound volume of session summaries, filed in a separate folder, both d'Harnoncourt and Rice participated in the seminar. A summary of d'Harnoncourt's remarks as moderator to the session "Must we give the visitors what they say they want?" is included in the volume. Her notes from the seminar, once again extensive, are separately filed as are the focus study reports submitted by the other participating museums. Although no such report from PMA is included, related documentation of how the Museum worked to improve communication and enhance the visitor experience can be found in the "Reinstallation project" records, particularly the "Education" files. Later visitor studies conducted by the Museum are included in the 1992-1996 and 1997-1999 subseries, examining visitor reaction to blockbuster exhibitions, namely the Barnes and Cézanne shows of 1995 and 1996, as well as to the services the Museum provides visitors in general, which was studied in 1997. These are filed, respectively, as "Visitors study" and "Visitors report."


  • 1986-1991


Access Restrictions

Permanently restricted in part, due to object valuations.


From the Series: 137.25 linear feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States