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Indian Art Department Records

Identifier: IND

Scope and Contents

This record group consists primarily of general correspondence and exhibition records that document the department's activities during most of Stella Kramrisch's curatorial tenure. Correspondence is alphabetically arranged by name of individual or institution, as well as a few files identified by subjects, such as scroll painting, lectures, and projects. Institutional correspondents include museums, galleries, universities, publishers and organizations dedicated to the promotion of Asian studies. Examples of the latter include the non-profit American Council of Southern Asia Art (ACSAA) and the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), which is a consortium of universities and colleges that promotes teaching and research about India. The most extensively documented exhibition is "Manifestations of Shiva," which was mounted in 1981. The 13 linear feet of records include a subseries of general files, which are topically arranged and document issues such as budget, travel, openings, publicity, and related symposium. The many "history" files that are a subgroup to the general files appear to pertain to the initial work, research and contacts made in preparing for the exhibition. The second subseries consists of lender files, which are grouped by location, namely American, European and Indian, and within each georgraphic division, by type of lender, either private or institution. The exhibition catalogue is the third subseries, and documentation consists primarily of catalogue entries and photographs of each object, as well as research material.

Most of the material comprising the "Other subjects" series pertains to a biographical project about Kramrisch undertaken after her death by the department's curatorial and administrative assistant. There are also sets of files regarding the return of incoming loans, refused exhibition loan requests, and general research and reference material, as well as a small amount of insurance requests, museum publications and information to certain gallery installations. One of the items in regard to the latter is also a piece of memorabilia--sheet music of the song played at the dedication of the museum's Indian Temple in 1920. Langdon Warner, the museum's director at that time, wrote the lyrics.

Early records of the department are part of the Far Eastern Art Department Records. Departmental records generated after Kramrisch's tenure to 2014 are in the Indian and Himalyan Art Department Records.


  • circa 1896-1999, undated


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Indian 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.

Biographical / Historical

In 1931 the Museum appointed W. Norman Brown (1892-1975) as its first curator of Indian art. Brown, who would establish the first academic department of South Asian Studies in the United States in 1947, was at this time also serving as chair of Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time of his curatorial appointment, the Indian Art office was part of the Division of Eastern Art. In 1954, museum Director Fiske Kimball persuaded Dr. Stella Kramrisch (1896-1993) to join the museum and assume the curatorial position. Like her predecessor, Kramrisch was a faculty member of South Asian Studies at Penn. Both scholars also lived and taught in India before assuming their stateside academic and curatorial positions. Kramrisch greatly expanded the museum's holdings in Indian and Himalayan art. In addition to her many scholarly writings, she also curated some of the most significant exhibitions in her field, such as the 1968 "Unknown India," which was the first scholarly survey of Indian folk and tribal art to be presented in the western world.

During Kramrisch's tenure, the formal designation of her department was also modified. In 1956 the museum renamed the division "Oriental Art," with curators in Indian and Far Eastern art. In 1972, it dropped the divisional title, and separately recognized the two curatorial offices. The following year, Kramrisch, who by then was also teaching at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, became Curator Emeritus and Research Fellow at the Museum. She continued to serve solely as Curator Emeritus from 1978 until her death in 1993. In addition to bequesting her personal art collection to the Museum, Kramrisch also endowed the curatorial chair of the department to which she had devoted nearly 40 years of scholarship and service. In the museum's 1995 annual report, the department was listed for the first time as Indian and Himalayan Art and Kramrisch's former position became the Stella Kramrisch Curator. Darielle Mason was the first to receive that appointment in 1997 and continues to serve as curator in what is now known as the South Asian Art Department.


36.75 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Indian Art Department Records consist primarily of general correspondence and exhibition records that document the department's activities during Stella Kramrisch's tenure as curator.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.



Guide to the Indian Art Department Records
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services
Edition statement

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