The Archives: Bringing the Museums to Life

March 21, 2014
Hat rack, given by Paul Sachs to Edward Forbes. Courtesy Harvard Art Museums Archives.

With 3,000 printed volumes, as well as a wealth of correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, and architectural drawings, the records in the Harvard Art Museums Archives date back to the opening of the Fogg Museum in 1895. The department is a treasure trove for students, scholars, and interested members of the international art community who want to research the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums.

“The Archives bring the museums to life,” said Megan Schwenke, archivist and records manager. “The experience of working with original sources is unrivalled. You can see the actual documents of the founding directors of the Fogg Museum, Edward Forbes and Paul Sachs, discussing what pieces of art to buy, or you can review the building plans for the new Fogg Museum, which opened in 1927.”

Schwenke pointed out that the Archives exist as a learning and teaching venue, continuing the museums’ legacy of encouraging research and scholarship. “People can search our collections on various databases, and then call in with information requests or research questions—we welcome those calls. The collections are here, they’re available, and they’re very rich.”

And they are also full of delightful surprises. Schwenke recently shared with Index an object that has special meaning to the museums now, as we prepare to open our new facility in November. It’s a hat rack that Paul Sachs gave to Edward Forbes to celebrate the opening of the new Fogg building. The 1926 inscription reads: “To Edward from Paul, A place to hang your hat in the new Fogg.”

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