Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives & Collections
As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” For this reason, archivists play an essential role in preserving the memory and legacy of people, places, and things. Archivists are only one part of the equation. We need the help of scholars, historians, genealogists, and curators to guide our decisions on what materials should be preserved for posterity.
But what happens when records are not preserved? Moreover, who gets to be remembered and who is forgotten?
Using PAFA’s archives, I have been assisting the descendant of Susan H. Bradley (1851-1929) conduct genealogical research. Together, our work attempts to raise awareness of Bradley’s influence on the Philadelphia and Boston art scene during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Archives is happy to announce that staff have recently completed organizing and uploading two new digital collections.
The first digital collection of 627 photographs are part of the Alumni Gallery photographs. The photographs document the exhibition openings for 10 alumni gallery exhibitions from 2011-2014. The Alumni Gallery exhibits works by alumni from all of PAFA’s matriculating programs. Located within the Historic Landmark Building, the Alumni Gallery offers a contemporary view of PAFA’s longstanding traditions in art-making and is always free and open to the public.
The second digital collection is the Annual Student Exhibition and Graduation photographs which consists of 9498 photographs. The collection documents various year end events for students, specifically the Annual Student Exhibition; Preview Party; public opening; award and prize ceremony; luncheon; graduation and commencement ceremony; as well as alumni reunion party.
Two weeks ago, the Center for the Study of the American Artist welcomed its first class visit since its closure due to COVID-19. Professor Renee Foulks scheduled an appointment for her Low-Residency MFA class.
The students selected a number of works from PAFA’s permanent collection for closer examination and discussion. Works included:
Zheng is an international student in PAFA’s MFA program. I first met Zheng during a class visit in 2017. He expressed interest in learning more about the archives and how it supports PAFA’s mission. Zheng will be joining the archives to help digitize historical photographs documenting school classes.
PAFA recently acquired a new suite of Guerrilla Girls posters. The posters are widely known for their poignant, surprising and often funny projects unpacking and bringing to light gender inequities in the art world for the last three decades. Upon hearing about this new acquisition, Print Nation, PAFA’s student-run printmaking group quickly made an appointment with the Center for the Study of the American Artist to view some of these posters up close. We were happy to host the group.
PAFA’s collection of prints, drawings, miniatures, photographs, sketchbooks, and illustrated books contains over 13,000 American works on paper, dating from the 18th century to the present day. Works of art on paper are by nature delicate objects that can be irreparably damaged from cumulative exposure to light. As a result, PAFA can only display these works for short periods of time, and then only in low levels of light to guarantee their preservation for future generations.
PAFA’s new Center for the Study of the American Artist provides a dedicated study room to act as a classroom for teaching with works of art on paper in PAFA’s permanent collection, a practice that has been fundamental to PAFA since its inception as America’s first fine art school and museum.
The seminar style room provides a setting to encourage art criticism, discussion, and contemplation.
On some occasions, there are a series of framed works that require viewing in their storage location!
The Center is open to qualified individuals, groups, and classes.
Visits are generally held Monday – Friday during the hours of 10am-4pm, dependent on the availability of staff. We recommend that visitors begin an initial search of PAFA’s collection of works on paper here. For more information, please visit the Study Center.
The Center for the Study of the American Artist would like to welcome all new students to PAFA and welcome back all returning students. Whether you are just starting or finishing up, be sure to take advantage of the Center’s services in the year ahead. Much like the amazing PAFA Faculty, the Museum staff are also here to help you grow as artists- whether you want to view a specific piece of art, need research assistance, talk about art, or even learn more about museum career possibilities.
As always, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our services. We wish you a very successful year ahead.
Adil is an MFA student here at PAFA. He has dreams of pursuing a PhD and wanted to gain more experience in the research process. What better way than to research PAFA’s rich history? The archives has a unique collection of student records (not protected by FERPA) that contain a wealth of information. If you examine the the student files separately, they provide rich biographical information and personal insights. Adil will be working on this inventory project for the summer to uncover some of the hidden stories of PAFA students.
The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is excited to announce the recent acquisition of George Harding Sr. papers. Harding (1882-1959), a former PAFA student and faculty member for nearly 40 years was a prominent American illustrator.
The collection includes photographs, correspondence, clippings, sketches, drawings, and diaries documenting his life as a student, war artist, illustrator and author.