Small Repositories Subject Guide: Arts and Culture

Philadelphia and the surrounding region have a rich history in culture and the arts. Many small repositories have personal and family papers as well as the records of institutions and associations that relate to the visual and performing arts, music, and horticulture and landscape.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is helping to uncover hundreds of hidden collections held by the many small archival repositories in the five-county Philadelphia region. Some of the collections cataloged during the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide for archival research at area small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and indicate the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

All the finding aids from the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

Visual art
Music and the performing arts
Horticulture and landscape

Visual Art

Anna Russell Jones papers, 1892-1989 (AAMP.1986.040)
African American Museum in Philadelphia
17 linear feet
Anna Russell Jones (1902-1995) was the first African American woman from Philadelphia to join the Armed Forces during World War II and the first African American graduate of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). She was a talented artist who worked as a wallpaper and carpet designer, civil service illustrator, and freelance artist. Her life evidenced her interest in African American history and civil rights, commitment to public service, and fascination with medical practice. The Anna Russell Jones papers, 1892-1989, primarily document her time in the military and as a civil service illustrator through scrapbooks, photographs, illustrations, sketches, and related correspondence and personnel records. There are also materials relating to her art education and some family papers, as well as correspondence, artworks, and documents from later in Jones' life.

Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970 (GF.01)
Glen Foerd on the Delaware
18.5 Linear feet
The Foerderer family was prominent in the Philadelphia area and well known for their self-named leather manufacturing and tanning business. The family resided at Glen Foerd beginning in 1893 after purchasing it from the Macalester family. A large portion of the records in the Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970, are financial in nature and range from 1896 to 1946. There is also a span of subject files which include primarily correspondence and receipts pertaining to the maintenance of the estate. A highlight of this collection are papers of Florence Tonner, who was an avid art collector.

Klaus Grutzka artwork and reference materials, 1939-2011 (NISHM.05)
National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
80 linear feet
Klaus Guido Grutzka (1923-2011) was a commercial painter and illustrator who focused on industrial scenery and subjects. The Klaus Grutzka artwork and reference materials, 1939-2011, consist primarily of artworks by Grutzka, as well as photographs taken by him of finished works and of subjects for reference, diagrams and artworks by others collected by Grutzka for reference, and a very small amount of original documents such as correspondence about his works and newspaper clippings about him.

Newtown Historic Association collection on Edward Hicks and family, 1802-1986 (NHA.08)
Newtown Historic Association
3.25 linear feet
Edward Hicks (1780-1849) an American Quaker artist best known for his painting "The Peaceable Kingdom," of which he created more than 60 versions. Hicks lived in Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania from 1811 until his death. The Newtown Historic Association collection on Edward Hicks and family, 1802-1986, includes a small amount of original primary documents from Edward Hicks and his family members, as well as a large amount of articles, research notes, manuscripts, photocopies of Hicks documents and paintings, and related secondary materials compiled by Hicks scholars. The highlight of the collection is a daybook that was used by Edward Hicks and his son, Isaac W. Hicks, 1833-1885.

Philadelphia Sketch Club records, 1860-2012 (PSC.02)
Philadelphia Sketch Club
54 Linear feet
The Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860, is America's oldest club for artists. Philadelphia Sketch Club records, 1860-2012, contains minute books, treasurer's reports, ledgers, receipts, dues books, membership applications, exhibition planning materials and catalogs, photographs, and many other records of the organization. A highlight of the collection is a box of Philadelphia Sketch Club member Christmas cards, most featuring original artwork, circa 1920-2004.

Robert H. Finnigan costume sketches, circa 1966-1978 (MM.07)
Mummers Museum
2.25 linear feet
Robert (Bob) Finnigan is among the best-known costume designers for the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been designing costumes for the parade since 1960. The Robert H. Finnigan costume sketches, circa 1966-1978, contain several dozen original sketches for his designs.

Russell Smith Family papers, 1805-1952 [bulk 1852-1949] (OYR.2003.013)
Old York Road Historical Society
3.5 Linear feet
The Smiths were a family of artists who worked and lived at their home in Edgehill, Pennsylvania. Russell Smith (1812-1896) was a landscape painter who became a prominent theater curtain painter, and his son Xanthus (1839-1929) was known for his Civil War naval battle scenes. The bulk of the Russell Smith family papers, 1805-1952, are comprised of financial records and estate records from the Smith family. The collection also includes pencil and ink sketches and watercolors created by Russell and Xanthus Smith.

Wharton Esherick family papers, 1895-1996 [bulk 1920-1970] (WEM.01)
Wharton Esherick Museum
10.5 linear feet
Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) was a sculptor who worked primarily in wood, readily extending his unique forms to furniture, furnishings, utensils, interiors and buildings, creating sculptural environments. He has been called the link between the Arts and Crafts Movement and the resurgent interest in furniture making following World War II, the dean of American craftsmen, and the foundation of the current Studio Furniture Movement. The Wharton Esherick family papers, 1895-1996 (bulk 1920-1970), consist of correspondence, work documentation, financial papers, publicity clippings, photographs, and other materials that primarily document Esherick's work and to a lesser extent his personal life and the personal lives of his immediate family.


Historic Yellow Springs collection, 1823-2013 (HYS.01)
Moore Archives at Historic Yellow Springs
140 linear feet
Historic Yellow Springs is a non-profit organization in Chester County, Pennsylvania that preserves and promotes the history and arts of Yellow Springs village. The village was the site of 18th and 19th century spas; the first military hospital in North America, built during the Revolutionary War; an orphan school for children of Civil War Soldiers; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)'s Country School; Good News Productions, the film studio that created The Blob; and Chester Springs Studio, a vibrant arts center that merged with Historic Yellow Springs in 2007. The Historic Yellow Springs collection, 1823-2013, is a combination of original records and collected secondary-source materials about the several organizations that have occupied the village of Historic Yellow Springs over its long history from 1722 into the 21st century.

Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926 records, 1921-1927 [bulk 1926-1926] (SM.03)
Historic Strawberry Mansion
7.25 linear feet
The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 was formed to promote, raise funds, and create exhibits for the exposition. One of their most ambitious and popular exhibits was High Street, a recreation of early American life through buildings and period reenactment. The Women's Committee records, 1921-1927, contain administrative and financial records as well as ephemera generated by the committee.

Music and the performing arts

Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1970 (WHS.03)
Worcester Historical Society
1.5 linear feet
Christine Shearer (1884-1968) of Worcester, Pennsylvania began entering jingle-writing contests in the 1930s, and continued to enter and win such contests for over 25 years. Mrs. Shearer was active with the local Ladies' Aid Society, serving as its president. Her sister Irma Schultz also entered jingle-writing contests, although not as frequently. The Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1965, are comprised of scrapbooks created by Shearer and Schultz. The bulk consist of newspaper clippings, but of special interest are three scrapbooks which document the women's jingle-writing hobby.

David K. Eichler Collection, 1898-1994 [bulk 1925-1994] (CHHS.2003.82)
Chestnut Hill Historical Society
10.1 linear feet
David Kemble Eichler (1913-2003) was a real estate agent and "popular local personality" in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in the military during World War II and briefly worked for the state department. He was friends with actress Katharine Hepburn. The David K. Eichler collection, 1898-1994, includes correspondence, working files, publications, books, floor plans and photographs. Subjects cover a range of interest and experience such as art, drama, travel, World War II service and subsequent diplomatic service, graduate school, employment, current events, business enterprises, community work, politics, and personal relationships.

Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection, 1962-2010 (MM.09)
Mummers Museum
116 linear feet
The tradition of mummery dates back to the late 17th century, but the parade was first sponsored by the City of Philadelphia in 1901. The Philadelphia New Years Shooters and Mummers Association administers the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mummers Museum audiovisual materials collection, 1962-2010, consists of video recordings of the Mummers Parade and published audio recordings of Mummers string bands.

Mummers Museum photograph collection, circa 1899-2010 (MM.02)
Mummers Museum
21 linear feet
The tradition of mummery dates back to the late 17th century, but the parade was first sponsored by the City of Philadelphia in 1901. The Philadelphia New Years Shooters and Mummers Association administers the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mummers Museum photograph collection, circa 1899-2010, is comprised of photographs and slides of the Mummers Parade, Mummers, and associated individuals.

Natalie Hinderas and Leota Palmer papers, 1904-1993 [bulk 1940-1989] (AAMP.G94.025)
African American Museum in Philadelphia
8 linear feet
Natalie Hinderas (1927-1987), born Natalie Leota Henderson to Abram L. Henderson and Leota Palmer (1904-1997), became a celebrated pianist and music instructor in Philadelphia. She was one of the first African Americans to gain worldwide fame as a classical pianist, and was the first African-American female pianist to be featured by a symphony orchestra. The Natalie Hinderas and Leota Palmer papers, 1904-1993 (bulk 1940-1989), consist mostly of materials relating to Natalie Hinderas, particularly her music career and education, with a significant amount of materials relating to Natalie's mother, Leota Palmer. There are also some personal papers. Materials include: correspondence, programs, scrapbooks, family photograph albums, newspaper clippings, and family property records/deeds from Ohio.

Pearl Bailey papers, 1946-1990 [bulk 1970-1979] (AAMP.G95.013)
African American Museum in Philadelphia
40 linear feet
Pearl Bailey (1918-1990) was an American entertainer notable for her sultry singing and mischievous humor. She appeared on Broadway, in movies, and on her own television show. Bailey also authored several books. In 1975 she was appointed special ambassador to the United Nations by President Gerald Ford; she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The Pearl Bailey papers, 1946-1990 (bulk 1970-1979), include scrapbooks, recordings, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, writings, financial records, and other materials relating to Pearl Bailey. Most document her public life in the 1970s, especially her career as a singer and actress, a cultural ambassador, and an author. A smaller quantity of materials relate to her personal life, including her finances, family, and college education at Georgetown University.

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts records, 1925-1974 (PCC.01)
Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts
34.33 linear feet
The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts was founded in 1966 as the social club of the Union Local No. 274 of the American Federation of Musicians. Local No. 274, the Black musicians union of Philadelphia, was in existence from 1935 to 1971. With members such as John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, Local 274 was an important organization in the development of jazz in Philadelphia. The Clef Club served as a foundation for the city's jazz community, advancing projects to benefit jazz musicians. The Club continued to function as a social club until 1978, when it expanded its activities to include jazz performance, jazz instruction, and the preservation of Philadelphia's rich jazz history. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts records, 1925-1974, include records of both the Black Musicians Union Local No. 274 and the Clef Club. The records, which appear to be fairly comprehensive, consist primarily of administrative records, financial records, and records relating to members.

Horticulture and landscape

Fairmount Park Maps, Plans and Drawings collection, 1684-2010 (FP.2010.004)
Fairmount Park Historic Resource Archives
98 linear feet
Items in this collection relate to East and West Fairmount Park, the original components of what has become the vast Fairmount Park system. Unique in its composition, these areas not only contain naturalist landscapes, but they are also home to a truly diverse set of historic and functional structures. In addition to a vast trail system and traditional recreational facilities (such as swimming pools and baseball diamonds), these parks are also home to an array of 18th and 19th century historic houses, the nation's first zoo, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the imposing Fairmount Water Works, and Philadelphia's iconic Boathouse Row.

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania records, 1933-2013 (MA.02)
Morris Arboretum Archives
53 linear feet
The land that is now the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania, the official Arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was previously the private estate of Quaker siblings John Thompson Morris (1847-1915) and Lydia Thompson Morris (1849-1932). Bequeathed to the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, it was part of the University's Botany Department until, in 1975, it was established as a separate Interdisciplinary Resource Center. The Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania records, 1933-2013, include the office files of former directors, various administrative and financial records, correspondence, press clippings about the Arboretum, membership reports, programs and ephemera, publicity photographs.