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Twentieth Century Art Department Records

Identifier: TCA

Scope and Contents

These records underscore the museum's continued and expanding commitment to modern art, with some of the material predating its formal designation as the Department of Twentieth Century Art. Beginning in the mid-1960s, chronologically-arranged exhibition records comprise more than three-quarters of the record group, spanning shows held from 1967 to 1996, exploring modernism's diversity, from Mexican art to Marsden Hartley. There are administrative and planning files to nearly every show, documenting issues such as funding, public relations and publicity, installation design and labels, research and lenders. Three of the more extensively documented exhibitions are "Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art" (1976), which was organized by the American Art Department, "Futurism and the International Avant Garde" (1980-1981), and "Thinking is Form: the Drawings of Joseph Beuys" (1993-1994), which also traveled to New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Each includes a significant number of artist, object, and lender files, most of which contain correspondence, photographs and clippings, as well as files pertaining to themes explored in the exhibition and its catalogue, to other published writings, including reviews, and to related events such as symposiums. Also documented here are the planning stages of a traveling exhibition that never occurred. It was to feature the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The papers pertaining to the show date from 1990 to 2003 and thus reflect the activities of the department under its "Twentieth Century Art" and later "Modern and Contemporary Art" designation.

Departmental files containing correspondence and research are alphabetically arranged by collector name. Correspondence sub-series contain communication filed around the time of creation, most likely by the creator, in the course of business activities. Research sub-series may include historical communication gathered for research purposes by department staff. Some of the more extensively documented collectors include Walter and Louise Arensberg (including original photographs taken by Beatrice Wood of the Arensbergs and Marcel Duchamp), Christian Brinton, Albert Eugene (A.E.) Gallatin, Louis E. Stern, and Vera and Samuel S. White III.

This record group also includes approximately 2 linear feet of departmental records (1966-1982) comprised of general correspondence and subject files pertaining to issues such as loans to other institutions, exhibitions, and specific objects and collections. There are also individual files to some special events and programs, namely the 1967 Philadelphia Art Festival, the 1970 Flower Show, and a program proposed during the early 1980s involving the subway station at Temple University, located in the north section of Philadelphia. For later records, see Modern and Contemporary Art Department Records.


  • 1966-2003


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Twentieth Century 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 1969, the museum appointed its first curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture to be responsible for objects defined by time period. That year John L. Tancock became Associate Curator of 19th and 20th Century Sculpture. During the several years prior, Henry G. Gardiner and Allen Staley both served under the general title of Assistant Curator. In 1971 Anne d'Harnoncourt joined the department as its first Associate Curator of 20th Century Painting. In 1973, Twentieth Century Art became a separate department, with d'Harnoncourt as curator. Mark Rosenthal succeeded her in 1983 when the museum named d'Harnoncourt its George D. Widener Director. In 1989 Ann Temkin joined the Museum as Acting Curator of Twentieth Century Art, and the following year she was appointed the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Twentieth Century Art. The final departmental name change occurred in the year 2000. To reflect the coming millennium, the Twentieth Century Art Department became the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.


60 linear feet

Language of Materials



These records document the exhibitions, research, and activities of the Twentieth Century Art Department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams, Megan Finn and Leslie O'Neill. Funded by a grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Additional materials were arranged and described by Molly Reynolds in 2019.

Guide to the Twentieth Century Art Department Records
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams, Megan Finn and Leslie O'Neill. Later additions prepared by Molly Reynolds.
2011, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Historical Publications and Records Commission

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