Archival Adventures in Small Repositories
Ryerss Museum and Library, owned and operated by Philadelphia's Park & Recreation Department, is a public lending library and museum located in the Burholme neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia. The 1859 building that houses the museum and library was originally owned by two generations of the Ryerss' family, Joseph Waln Ryerss and his son Robert Waln Ryerss. Joseph Ryerss (1803-1868) earned his living as an importer/exporter, and served as President of the Tiaga Railroad and the Philadelphia Exchange. The Ryerss family were related both by blood and by marriage to the prominent Philadelphia Quaker Waln family who descended from original Pennsylvania settler Nicholas Waln. Robert Waln Ryerss (1831-1896) was a lawyer who scandalized Philadelphia society by marrying his housekeeper, Mary Ann Reed, eight months before his death. After his death, Robert's will provided for the creation of a museum, library and park. Robert's widow, Mary Ann, spent the rest of her life traveling the world to collect items to add to the family's collection for what is now the Ryerss Museum.
Ryerss Museum and Library's archival holdings are comprised of Ryerss and Waln family papers and other documents relating to the the development of the museum. The collections total over 10 linear feet of materials dating from 1758 to 1950.