Skip to main content

American Art Department Records

Identifier: AME
The departmental files document the work of the American Art department, as well as related activities from the 1960s that predate its formal establishment. This series includes the correspondence of David Hanks (1974-1977) and Darrel Sewell (1973-2002), along with research materials compiled by Sewell and his staff. The latter records include checklists, bibliographies, and craft-related topics.

The exhibitions and installations series includes material from 1970 to 2005 and documents several significant exhibitions for the department, including "Three Centuries of American Art" (1976), "Henry Ossawa Tanner" (1991), and "Contemporary American Crafts" (1991).

There are folder-level inventories for most of these records; please see the Archivist for copies.


  • ca. 1965-1991


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research. Access to institutional records less than 10 years old is at the discretion of the Archivist.

Use Restrictions

The American Art Department Records are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.


8.6 linear feet


None available.

Historical Note

The American Art Department originated in 1973 with the impetus of America's up-coming Bicentennial and the Museum's Centennial celebrations. The Curator was Darrel Sewell with Beatrice B. Garvan as Assistant Curator. In 1974 David Hanks was also appointed as Curator along with Dorinda Evans as Visiting Curator and Lu D. Bartlett as Assistant Curator. Beatrice Garvan was appointed Associate Curator and Dorinda Evans became the Visiting Curator for the Bicentennial Exhibition in 1975. By 1976 Lu D. Bartlett had left. Kathryn Plummer was appointed the Pennsylvania German Exhibition Coordinator in 1982. At that time (no later than June 1984), the department formally instituted an office for American decorative arts, including objects and architecture. Beatrice Garvan was appointed its curator. Darrel Sewell continued in his curatorial capacity,overseeing the Museum's collection of American paintings and sculpture dating from the 1600s to 1900. In 2002, Sewell became an emeritus member of the staff, and Kathleen A. Foster joined the Museum as Curator of American Art.

Another significant development in the Museum's promotion of American art awareness and scholarship occurred at this time. In the fall of 2002, the Museum received an endowment from Robert L. McNeil, Jr., which allowed for the establishment of The Center of American Art. Its purpose has been to promote the study of this country's artistic and cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on the contributions from the Philadelphia area. To achieve this ambitious agenda, the Center sponsors symposia, lectures, fellowships, publications and research.

Records of the American Decorative Arts Department are maintained as a separate record group in the Archives.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Alice Lefton, Bertha Adams, Susan Anderson and Leslie O'Neill in 2011. Funded by a grant from The National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Guide to the American Art Department Records
Finding aid prepared by Alice Lefton, Bertha Adams, Susan Anderson and Leslie O'Neill
Language of description
Funded by a grant from The National Historical Publications and Records Commission
Edition statement

Revision Statements

  • 1/20/2006: Susie Anderson: New nodes and citation
  • 6/11/2007: Bertha Adams: June 11, 2007
  • 3/30/2011: Susie Anderson: nhprc
  • 3/31/2011: Susie Anderson: nhprc
  • 3/31/2011: Susie Anderson: nhprc

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