HSP's collections in Arts and Culture include works of art on paper, playbills and scrapbooks related to the performing arts, literary manuscripts, records of cultural institutions, and the personal papers of visual and performing artists.
The Society has extensive holdings of works of art on paper, such as Benjamin West drawings, David J. Kennedy watercolor views of Philadelphia, Violet Oakley prints, D. Sargent Bell photographs, and lithographic portraits of Native Americans by J. O. Lewis and Thomas Lorraine McKenney. The online guide "Places in Time: Historical Documentation of Place in Greater Philadelphia" includes digital images of many Philadelphia-area views at HSP, including works by David J. Kennedy, W. L. Breton, and Benjamin Ridgway Evans, as well the Nicholas B. Wainright inventory of Philadelphia-area scenes, many of which are at HSP.
Performing arts-related holdings include the Music and Theater Posters collections, both of which mainly represent 19th-century works, and the Playbill Collection, which along with programs includes scrapbooks, postcard portraits, cigarette cards, and other ephemera.
Literary works encompass a broad range of genres, time periods, and languages. Of particular note is a substantial collection of Yiddish literature. Manuscript literature includes poetry by a number of women in the early republic, such as Deborah Borton, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, Susan H. Gardiner, and Mary B. Garrigues Lodge.
The Society also has personal papers of a number of people in the arts, such as engraver John Sartain (Sartain Family Papers), painter John Neagle, miniaturist Anna Margaretta Archambault, actress Rose Lanu Quong, musician Andrew Salama, and singer/dancer/storyteller Wadeeha Atiyeh. Several collections document members of the Peale family, especially painter and museum curator Charles Willson Peale and arts writer Rembrandt Peale.
Cultural organizations are represented through a range of published materials as well as the records of such organizations as the Musical Fund Society, Print Club of Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Art Association, American Institute for Italian Culture, National Carl Schurz Association, and Philadelphia Ceili Group. The Amandus Johnson Papers document Johnson’s work with a large number of Swedish-American cultural organizations. The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 is well represented by both manuscript and published materials.