PAFA First!


Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

For more than two centuries, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has played a pivotal role in defining the future of American art. To ensure that PAFA will continue to be a leading force in collecting and exhibiting American art, educating artists, and engaging the public, we have embarked on a transformative capital campaign: PAFA First: For the Future of American Art.

Increasing Our Commitment to Contemporary Art and Art-Making

The Campus Master Plan will increase PAFA’s art storage capacity by 80%, ensuring the successful care of our existing collection and accommodating new contemporary acquisitions made possible by the acquisition fund. The plan will also allow us to distribute the storage of our collections to the buildings where they are most likely to be exhibited.

Writing the Future of American Art History

You cannot teach the history of American art without PAFA. PAFA’s priceless collection of archives pieces together the invaluable back stories of our key leaders, alumni, teachers, and artists, many of whom are iconic figures in American art history. To make countless documents, sketchbooks, photographs, records, works of art on paper, and published volumes accessible to students and scholars of American art, as well as to the general public, we have established the Center for the Study of the American Artist.

The Center consolidates our unique archives, fine arts library, works on paper collection, and rare books on the refurbished fifth floor of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building and features a Works on Paper Study Room, conservation facility, and a climate-controlled storage vault.


Read more about PAFA’s capital campaign here.

Unhidden Collections – PAFA’S Historical Art Books!

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

Forgotten in the basement of the Historic Landmark Building, PAFA had a “hidden” collection of art books. We describe them as hidden because we do not have an accurate inventory or catalog of what is in the collection. Folklore has it that part of the special collection included the donation of Joseph Bonparte’s library in the early 19th century. How can we confirm this folklore? The only way to uncover this mystery is to conduct an inventory and cataloging project.

The archives was lucky enough to have two interns for the summer to help out with the project. Ellie Blackman (PAFA/UPenn BFA) and Yoni Newman (PAFA MFA) were able to complete the project. There were some unique finds such as Henry O. Tanner’s annotated Paris Salon Catalogues and bound volumes of prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

You can browse the special collection here.

New Acquisition! The Giuseppe Donato collection

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

The Dorothy and Kenneth Woodcock Archives is excited to announce the recent acquisition of the Giuseppe Donato collection. Donato (1881-1965) studied at PAFA from 1897 to 1903. After completing his training at PAFA, he traveled to Paris to study under the great sculptor Auguste Rodin. Returning to America, he had many public art commissions including the west pediment of the1940 Philadelphia Municipal Court and a statue completed in 1946 of Thomas Fitzsimmons, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution, which stands today in Philadelphia’s Logan Square.

The collection provides comprehensive documentation of Giuseppe Donato’s career as a sculptor from 1897-1965. Black and white photographs make up the bulk of the collection but correspondence and clippings also provide contextual information to Donato’s sculpture projects throughout his career.

Researchers can view the finding aid here.

We’re Moving! Relocating the library, archives, and works on paper collection!

Contributed by: Hoang Tran, Director of Archives

External access to PAFA’s archives, library, and works of art on paper collection has been temporarily suspended so staff can plan the relocation project–cleaning, inventorying, and rehousing were all needed to be done before anything could be moved.

The Arcadia Fine Arts Library has the easiest move. Already situated on the third floor of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, they only have to move upstairs to the newly renovated fifth floor which was previously PAFA’s “attic” where the institution stored unused suplies, furniture, and other random objects.

Moving the archive and works on paper art collections requires more planning and a bit of luck! Since both collections are located in the lower levels of the Historic Landmark Building, we will be moving the collection across the street in the middle of winter!

It was decided that the archives should move first for a number of reasons. First, all archival collections are boxed and in stable condition. Second, it will give staff more time to inventory and rehouse the art collection. Third, moving the archives serves as a trial run so we can establish a better workflow when we move the art. Also, compared to the 1,000+ framed art and 10,000 unframed works on paper, the archives is a much smaller collection to move (300 books, 800 linear feet of boxes).

We expect the physical relocation process to take one month. Another month or two to have the collections acclimate and situated in their new home. We are aiming to resume operations on June 5, 2016. Please stay tuned for new updates!