Anne d'Harnoncourt Records
Scope and Contents
In a 1977 article recounting the tastemakers of the arts in the 1970s, New York Times critic John Russell pointed to a new generation of intelligent, dedicated, and energetic women in the visual arts. Having names too numerous to list, Russell instead singled out one: "it would be hard . . . to find anyone in the profession who doubts that Anne d'Harnoncourt, now curator of 20th-century art in the Philadelphia Museum, will one day make a great museum director." Five years later, Anne d'Harnoncourt (1943-2008) assumed the role Russell predicted, and for the next 25 years, served as the George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), adding the position of Chief Executive Officer in 1997. During her tenure, d'Harnoncourt led the Museum through milestones that transformed its collections, exhibitions, curatorial and educational missions, and physical environment. The records she compiled during that time provide the framework for those transformations and underscore the attention to detail, encyclopedic intellect and interests, community commitment and contagious enthusiasm for the arts that characterized d'Harnoncourt's styles of leadership and life. Her records consist primarily of correspondence, notes, press clippings, ephemera, reference materials, reports and draft writings. Photographs, phone logs, appointment calendars, floor plans and other drawings are also included.
The records are arranged in four series, beginning with the most voluminous, "NAMES AND SUBJECTS" (SERIES I). Comprised of alphabetically arranged files, the series documents d'Harnoncourt's steady contact with colleagues, artists and patrons of the arts, as well as city officials, government and private funders, corporate leaders, scholars and educators and a number of PMA visitors. Subject files track the development of social, cultural and political trends, topics and events, as well as projects, programs and issues specific to Museum operations. The series is comprised of six date-defined subseries that adhere to the bulk dates of materials as transferred to the Archives: 1982-1985; 1986-1991; 1992-1996; 1997-1999; 2000-2003; and 2004-2008.
While the lengthy lists of names and subjects suggest the scope of d'Harnoncourt's responsibilities, the singular focus of the second series, "EXHIBITIONS" (SERIES II), indicates her maintaining at the least an overview of the approximately 200 exhibitions PMA presented to the public during her tenure. As the number of folders per exhibition makes evident, d'Harnoncourt's involvement varied. For some exhibitions, she'd receive general updates. With others, files of correspondence document her communicating directly with lenders, funders, and directors and curators of participating museums. Notes and annotated typescripts show d'Harnoncourt's work in drafting catalogue forewords as well as remarks she gave at gala openings, press previews and symposiums accompanying some of the exhibitions. Arranged chronologically in subseries of date ranges similar to those in Series I, each exhibition is processed as a sub-subseries, with files of unrealized exhibitions and other records at the end of each subseries.
Although not to the extent of her exhibition files, d'Harnoncourt maintained record groups for several other subjects for extended lengths of time. These records comprise the third series, "LONG-TERM RECORDS" (SERIES III), with each subject processed as a subseries. The subjects are: "Barnes Foundation," "Board of Trustees," "Calder Museum," "Duchamp, Marcel," and "Reinstallation project." Because d'Harnoncourt also kept a running file of the lectures and other talks she gave on behalf of the Museum, those records have also been processed here as the "Remarks" subseries. Both the "Barnes Foundation" and "Calder Museum" records pertain to PMA's involvement in projects outside the Museum that, respectively, sought to preserve intact a world-renown collection of art and to create a new venue in Philadelphia for the works of one of America's most distinguished family of artists. An ambitious undertaking at this Museum is the subject of the "Reinstallation project" subseries. A decade in the making, the project significantly changed the way visitors would experience PMA's exceptional collection of European art. D'Harnoncourt's files cover every aspect of the project, including gallery construction and renovations, object conservation and reinstallation, the development of new interpretive materials, as well as the studies and funding that enabled all the work. It is no wonder that Marcel Duchamp, the artist best associated with d'Harnoncourt's scholarship and curatorial tenure should be the subject of another subseries, "Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968." These records document the evolution of that association, which grew into the close relationship d'Harnoncourt shared with the artist's widow and step-daughter. The substantial amount of correspondence attests to how frequently the three consulted in order to insure the integrity of the artist's body of work. Other files make evident d'Harnoncourt's regular contact with her curatorial and library staff on matters of collection development for works of art and archival material in order to strengthen the Museum's reputation as an important center of Duchampian studies. Completing the series of long-term records is the "Board of Trustees" subseries, which documents d'Harnoncourt's work with members of the Museum's Board of Trustees. Most of the files pertain to the discussions and decisions of the Nominating Committee, charged with identifying new or re-nominating previous members to the board.
The last series, "OTHER MATERIALS" (SERIES IV), consists of records compiled and used by d'Harnoncourt and her staff to manage her daily activities and travel. Records are arranged in two subseries: "Administrative records" and "Assistant's files." The types of records created and the length of time such records were used no doubt reflect the different office practices of the approximately 20 assistants engaged over the course of d'Harnocourt's tenure. It is just as likely that the change of pace in the director's office that accompanied d'Harnoncourt's expanded responsibilities in 1997 when she was appointed CEO and her increased involvement in professional affiliations around the world also made an impact on recordkeeping.
Researchers should note that there is no electronically-formatted material in the Anne d'Harnoncourt Records. Although the Museum was making use of electronic communications by 1998, these paper-only records make clear that e-mail was not d'Harnoncourt's preferred medium of correspondence. Instead, she continued to write a significant amount of her letters and memos by hand, in her ubiquitous blue or black felt-tip pens. Notes, often of multiple pages, were also handwritten. And it was not uncommon for d'Harnoncourt to add whimsical images to her writings--literally illustrating her point. Her access to e-mail was often through an intermediary, with staff opening messages and printing them for her review. Neither did d'Harnoncourt frequently access the World Wide Web. Staff or others would provide printouts of pertinent websites and news articles.
- 1973-2008, undated
- d'Harnoncourt, Anne, 1943-2008 (Creator, Person)
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research as follows. Records created before the year 2000 are open, with exceptions noted at the subseries or folder level. Folders containing some items requiring further restriction are noted as "permanently restricted in part" or "restricted in part." Access to the latter is at the discretion of the archivist. All press clippings, photographs, and transcripts of remarks and lectures are open for research. Records created after 1999 will be subject to a 15-year closure calculated on the last year of designated date spans. Accordingly, 2000-2003 records will become available on Jan. 1, 2019; and 2004-2008 on Jan. 1, 2024.
Conditions Governing Use
The Anne d'Harnoncourt 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
A detailed biography of Anne d'Harnoncourt is included in the finding aid to the Anne d'Harnoncourt Papers.
1943 (Sept. 7) Anne Julie d'Harnoncourt is born in Washington, D.C. to René and Sarah (Carr) d'Harnoncourt.
1944 René d'Harnoncourt is appointed Vice President in charge of Foreign Activities and Director of the Department of Manual Industries at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Family moves to New York, NY.
1949 René d'Harnoncourt is appointed Director of MoMA.
1949-1961 Anne d'Harnoncourt attends Brearley School, 12-year preparatory school in New York.
1959 Travels to Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, and Ghana in Africa to participate in four-week International Affairs seminar.
1961-1965 Attends Radcliffe College, majoring in History and Literature of Europe and England since 1740.
1962 Travels to what is now Tanzania in Africa as a member of volunteer group, Project Tanganyika, to teach reading and writing to the local population.
1965 Awarded B.A. magna cum laude, Radcliffe College.
1965-1967 Attends Courtauld Institute of Art, London University.
1966-1967 As part of M.A. thesis, works at Tate Gallery, London, to prepare catalogue entries of 30 Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings.
1967 Awarded M.A. with distinction, Courtauld Institute of Art.
1967-1969 Serves as Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).
1968 (Mar. 25) Interviews Marcel Duchamp at his studio in New York City.
1968 (Aug. 13) René d'Harnoncourt dies at the age of 67.
1968 (Oct. 2) Marcel Duchamp dies. Soon thereafter, the Cassandra Foundation presents to PMA the artist's mixed-media assemblage "Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau, 2° le gaz d'éclairage . . . ". D'Harnoncourt participates in the dismantling and reinstallation of piece.
1969 (July 7) "Étant donnés" is unveiled to the public. D'Harnoncourt and Walter Hopps co-author an essay about the piece for the PMA Bulletin.
1969-1971 Serves as Assistant Curator of 20th Century Art, Art Institute of Chicago. Meets Joseph J. Rishel, Assistant Curator of European Painting.
1971 (June 19) Marries Joseph J. Rishel in New York
1971 Returns to Philadelphia Museum of Art as Associate Curator, Department of 20th Century Painting. Joseph J. Rishel joins PMA as Associate Curator of Painting before 1900.
1972-1982 Serves as Curator, Department of 20th Century Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
1982 (July)-1996 (Dec.) Serves as George D. Widener Director, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
1995 (Jan.) Awarded the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Republic of France.
1995 PMA milestone: Reinstallation of Museum's collection of European art from 1100 to 1900 is completed. Project resulted in the renovation of 55,000 square feet of exhibition space, conservation of thousands of objects and development of new interpretive materials.
1996 (May-Sept.) PMA milestone: "Cézanne" exhibition generates $122.5 million in tourism for the city of Philadelphia. Attendance of 548,000 visitors exceeds original estimates two-fold.
1996 (Dec.) PMA milestone: Museum acquires the marble bust of "Benjamin Franklin" carved by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1779 at auction for nearly $3 million. Considering the importance of the artist to the Museum and Franklin's historical significance to the city of Philadelphia, d'Harnoncourt describes the acquisition as "everything rolled into one."
1997 (Jan.)-2008 (June) Serves as George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
1998 (June) Receives Philadelphia Award (1997 award).
2000 (Dec.) PMA milestone: 2001 Fund 125th Anniversary Campaign is launched. Raises nearly $250 million by its conclusion in 2004.
2001 (Aug. 7) Sarah d'Harnoncourt dies at the age of 97.
2005 (Feb.-May) PMA milestone: "Salvador Dalí" exhibition draws more than 370,000 visitors, an attendance second only to the "Cézanne" exhibition of 1996. On average, visitors spend nearly two hours at the restrospective, a significantly longer time than one typically spends at one of the Museum's special exhibitions.
2006 (Dec.) PMA milestone: With the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Museum raises $68 million to jointly purchase "Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic)."
2007 (Sept.) PMA milestone: Ruth and Raymond G. Perleman Building opens as annex to main museum building.
2007 (Nov.) Awarded the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, Government of Mexico.
2008 (June 1) Anne d'Harnoncourt dies of cardiac arrest at the age of 64.
2008 (June 4) At the request of U.S. Representatives Robert Brady, the Flag of the United States is flown over the United States Capitol in memory of d'Harnoncourt.
2008 (June 19) Official day of appreciation of Anne d'Harnoncourt declared by Museum and City officials, and joined by the Governor of Pennsylvania. Outdoor tribute with performance by the Philadelphia Boys Choir held later that day on what would have been d'Harnoncourt and Rishel's 37th wedding anniversary.
2008 (Sept. 7) "Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Anne d'Harnoncourt" held at the Academy of Music (Philadelphia) on what would have been d'Harnoncourt's 65th birthday.
216.75 linear feet
Language of Materials
The Anne d'Harnoncourt Records correspond to the quarter of a century that Anne d'Harnoncourt (1943-2008) served as the George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), assuming the additional responsibilities of Chief Executive Officer in 1997. During her tenure, d'Harnoncourt led the Museum through milestones that transformed its collections, exhibitions, curatorial and educational missions, and physical environment. The records she compiled during that time provide the framework for those transformations and underscore the attention to detail, encyclopedic intellect and interests, community commitment and contagious enthusiasm for the arts that characterized d'Harnoncourt's styles of leadership and life. D'Harnoncourt maintained most of her files in large groups of alphabetically arranged names and subjects. Her exhibition records, however, were kept separate, implying an affinity for a subject she learned well during her earlier curatorial years. Other topics for which she held on to her records for extended time periods were the artist Marcel Duchamp, the Museum's Board of Trustees, and a few major projects concerning PMA and other institutions. Documentation consists primarily of correspondence, notes, press clippings, ephemera, reference materials, reports and draft writings. Photographs, phone logs, appointment calendars, floor plans and other drawings are also included.
Consisting of more than half of the documentation to the Anne d'Harnoncourt Records, Series I, Names and subjects, is comprised of six subseries of chronological date spans. Folders within each subseries are alphabetically arranged. Series II, Exhibitions, is comprised of four subseries of chronological date spans, with sub-subseries of individual exhibitions, chronologically arranged by exhibition date. There are six alphabetically-arranged subject subseries to Series III, Long-term records. They are: Barnes Foundation; Board of Trustees; Calder Museum; Duchamp, Marcel; Reinstallation project; and Remarks. The final series, Series IV, "Other materials," consists of two subseries of record types: "Administrative records," and "Assistant's files." Material of the former subseries is grouped by format, such as appointment calendars and phone logs. Files of the latter are arranged chronologically by date of the event documented.
Throughout this finding aid and within folder titles, the abbreviation "PMA" refers to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In folder titles, "AdH" refers to Anne d'Harnoncourt. For purposes of preservation, photocopies were made during processing to replace post-it notes and thermofax pages, used for printing facsimile transmissions in the earlier-dated files. Photocopies were made on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, and in the case of the former, copies were folded around or clipped to the document on which the note was affixed. Clippings from newspapers and other publications are identified as "press clippings," maintaining d'Harnoncourt's nomenclature. Print outs of news articles posted online have also been processed as press clippings.
As director, d'Harnoncourt regularly received copies of documents as a matter of procedure. During processing, it was determined that certain documentation need not be retained and that the removal of such items from the records would not compromise informational value. Exceptions were made for any documents that d'Harnoncourt annotated or letters of gifts addressed to her. These were retained. Documents removed and discarded are: checks (photocopies); conservation reports, including examination, proposal and treatment reports; drafts not prepared by AdH; expect notices (from Registrar); gift processing forms and attachments, except for cover letters addressed to AdH; grant applications and interim reports submitted by staff other than AdH; invoices, invoice transmittals or purchase requisitions (object-related); loan-out cards; restricted contribution forms. If access to such records is needed, researcher should consult with Archivist and/or the department of record for this documentation.
Transferred to the Library. A folder level inventory of this material is available in the Museum archives. Various exhibition catalogues and other publications.
Transferred to the Robert Montgomery Scott Records. A folder level inventory of this material is available in the Museum archives. Corporation files.
Transferred to the Twentieth Century Art Department Records. A folder level inventory of this material is available in the Museum archives. Curatorial files.
Transferred to the Jean Sutherland Boggs Records. A folder level inventory of this material is available in the Museum archives. Director files.
Transferred to the Evan Turner Records. A folder level inventory of this material is available in the Museum archives. Director files.
These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams, Tanya Brun, and Rose Chiango, with the assistance of Alva Barozzi, Katherine Gambaccini, Anne Hagele, Insley Julier, Phoebe Kowalewski, Ashley Lazevnick, Ryan McNally, Katherine Miller, Leslie O'Neill, Jeanne Pond, Scott Radway, Elizabeth Snowdon, Jennifer Stettler, and Paula Zamora. Funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Guide to the Anne d'Harnoncourt Records
- Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams, Tanya Brun, and Rose Chiango, with the assistance of Alva Barozzi, Katherine Gambaccini, Anne Hagele, Insley Julier, Phoebe Kowalewski, Ashley Lazevnick, Ryan McNally, Katherine Miller, Leslie O'Neill, Jeanne Pond, Scott Radway, Elizabeth Snowdon, Jennifer Stettler, and Paula Zamora.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation