Student Stories: Internship Experience

Contributed by Catherine Wan, intern

I write many essays and never give much thought to the creation of the primary sources I use. The databases, articles, and journals are all simply online. However, this internship has allowed me to participate directly in the creation of a digital collection comprised of primary source documents and photographs.

The digital collection will showcase archived documents from Asian students who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1917-1949. The work will help support PAFA’s initiative to highlight historically marginalized groups in the US. As a Chinese American, a history major, and someone interested in art, the chance to put a spotlight on these students is very important to me.

My work of scanning, formatting, and cataloging has allowed me to hold the delicate, aged papers these students once poured their hopes into. Each document describes their unique view of art and beauty, and their willingness to contribute to the field. The process of digitization ensures that this section of their life spent at PAFA will not fade nor remain hidden from the public. Instead, these newly digitized records will be preserved digitally and available freely online.

Like many general users, I didn’t realize all the necessary steps that were required to create digital collections. During my work in school, I never thought about how the digital records/collections came to be. Now, I was part of the creation process! I have the satisfaction of contributing a bit to the sea of online resources for users.

Alumni Spotlight: Susan H. Bradley

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.

Please read more about Bradley on the National Museum of Women in the Arts blog: Susan H. Bradley: A Rediscovered Powerhouse

Browse images of Bradley’s work in PAFA’s Digital Archives.

COVID-19 Updates

Next week will mark one year that the archives will be closed due to the pandemic. A majority of PAFA staff have continued working remotely, including the archives. Fortunately, we managed to remain productive during this time.

  1. The project team completed the Rediscovering John Rhoden grant project.
    • Completed the digitization right before closure.
    • Completed cataloging over 3900 items.
    • Completed the collection finding aid.
    • Completed the John Rhoden digital portal. We are currently doing a round of edits before we publicly promote and launch the digital portal and finding aid.
  2. Updated and created a number of online resources on PAFA’s history.

PAFA will temporarily close to the public beginning Saturday, March 14, until further notice.

The health and safety of our community is, and must be, our highest priority. PAFA will continue to monitor the global and local situation with regard to COVID-19, including advisories from local and national health authorities, while the Museum is closed to the public.

As a result, all research requests have been suspended until further notice. We urge patrons to use our Digital Archives to access historical records and online resources to supplement your research needs for the time being.

Any relevant updates related to PAFA’s museum operations will be posted on our website’s dedicated COVID-19 page. We encourage you to check back often.

New Digital Collections Portal

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

Over the summer months, the Archives has been working diligently behind the scenes upgrading our digital collections platform–from Omeka to Omeka S. The new platform provides greater flexibility as we grow our digital collections.

We are still performing web and user interface tests, ensuring a seamless transition and simple, straightforward navigation. The launch of PAFA’s New Digital Archives will be September 1, 2019.

Newly processed collection: Jessie Willcox Smith periodical illustrations

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives recently acquired a collection of periodical illustrations by PAFA Alumna Jessie Willcox Smith 1863-1935). Compiled by a collector over many years, the illustrations eventually made its way here after the estate donated it to PAFA.

Smith was a prolific illustrator during the late 19th, early 20th centuries. Her work has been published in many of the leading magazines of the time including Collier’s, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Woman’s Home Companion, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

Researchers can access the finding aid for the collection here: Collection of Jessie Willcox Smith periodical illustrations (MS.2018.01)

PAFA’s Archives also has a small collection of Jessie Willcox Smith personal papers (MS.026).



New Digital Collection – School Class photograph collection

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is happy to announce that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ School photograph collection has been fully digitized and available online on PAFA’s Digital Archives.

As America’s first fine art school, we are proud to provide students and artists an intense immersion in art-making anchored in a rich heritage of artistic achievement. It is without question, PAFA provides a fine arts education unlike any other.


Photographs in this collection provide a glimpse at the studio arts training in painting, illustration, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and of course, PAFA’s long-standing tradition of working from the figure. Photographs also provide evidence of our vibrant community of artists, curators, critics and teachers who create complex, diverse and provocative work and provide inspiration and stimulus for individual expression.

Newly processed collection: Hyman Myers, Historic Landmark Building renovation project files

Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

We are pleased to announce that the Hyman Myers, Historic Landmark Building renovation project files are open and available for research. This collection provides an in-depth look at PAFA’s 1970s renovation of it’s Historic Landmark Building designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt. Myers was the project lead for the renovation of the building. The collection contains extensive correspondence with clients, vendors, and various projects such as roof repointing, painting, skylight repairs, waterproofing, and electric upgrades. Also included are photographs evaluating the building and architectural plans for renovations.