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Martha Crary Halpern Research Papers

Identifier: HAL

Scope and Contents

Martha Crary Halpern promoted public awareness of the historic houses situated in Philadelphia's vast Fairmount Park through her work overseeing restoration projects, operations, and interpretation of the houses. Halpern served as the Assistant Curator for the Fairmount Park Houses from the early 1990s until her passing in 2004. She began as a Park House guide in 1975. The majority of this research collection is made up of subject files related to Fairmount Park and its historic houses, Philadelphia history, and 19th and 18th century life and domestic interiors. Photocopies of primary and secondary sources comprise the bulk of material. Correspondence, photographs, ephemera and draft writings are interspersed throughout the collection, including the Park House study sheets Halpern researched and produced for guides.

The organization of this collection aims to remain faithful to Halpern's original record keeping, with some additional arrangement and description in order to aid the researcher. The first three series include subject files containing documents related to estate ownership and family histories, land development in Philadelphia, exhibits, inventories of the historic houses, organizations involved in house stewardship, and the development of interpretive educational programs for historic houses. Dates included at the folder level estimate when Halpern was actively researching the subject based on correspondence, draft writings, and events dates. The series Personal Papers details Halpern's employment and curatorial activities related to the operation and interpretation of Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant. Finally, the series Reference Publications contains photocopies of texts and manuscript material prepared by and/or for Halpern and Park House staff and volunteers.


  • 1974-2004, undated


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Martha Crary Halpern Research Papers 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

Martha Crary Halpern (1937-2004) dedicated her professional life to the care and interpretation of the Fairmount Park houses. An alumni of the University of Pennsylvania (G'86), she began her house guide training in 1975, and took on the role of Assistant Curator of Park Houses and Long-term Loans in the early 1990s. During this time she oversaw all operations and construction projects at Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant, managed the Park House volunteers and education programs, and worked with other historic house museums on exhibition spaces and interpretation. In 2003, the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust honored her with the F. Eugene Dixon, Jr. Historic Preservation Award.


36.3 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Martha Crary Halpern Research Collection is comprised of the research files kept by Martha Halpern while serving as a Park House guide, later as Assistant Curator of the Fairmount Park Houses, and as an independent contractor for historical interpretation and preservation in the Philadelphia region. The collection includes research subject files, correspondence, information related to Park House operations, draft writings, and finished reports. There are also a number of reference works prepared by Halpern and kept at Visitor Services.

Custodial History

Gift of Howard Halpern, 2006.


Additional accruals were received from the Volunteer Services Department in 2015 and the American Art Department in 2018.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Susan Anderson and Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services. Processing was completed in 2019 by Molly Reynolds and funded by a grant from the Philadelphia Museum of Art Women's Committee.

Guide to the Martha Crary Halpern Research Papers
Finding aid prepared by Susan Anderson and Bertha Adams in 2009. Collection processed in full by Molly Reynolds in 2019.
2009, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services

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