At a meeting of the Board of Managers held on January 19, Dr. Charles Custis Harrison was elected President of the University Museum. The labors connected with this office are not new to Dr. Harrison: as Provost of the University he always appreciated and encouraged the Museum’s work, and as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Museum he has for several years participated actively in all of its labors, rendering with the utmost disregard of himself, a loyal and devoted service to his City and his Country.
From all points of view no action could have been more fitting or more fortunate than the election of Dr. Harrison to succeed Mr. Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., in the office of President of the University Museum. Working together for years toward the same end, there always existed a close association and a deep sympathy between the late President and the ex-Provost of the University. In 1910, after he had retired from the Provostship, Dr. Harrison stated that his chief incentive for taking up the active work of the Museum was a feeling of loyalty towards Mr. Coxe and a desire to help him in the important service which he was rendering to the public through the Museum and through many other channels.
This happy relationship, based on mutual esteem, has been a source of strength to the Museum and has enabled it to enter upon a period of useful activity. The traditions that belong especially to Mr. Coxe’s term of office and that are closely identified with his personality, are, through the election of Dr. Harrison, passed on and perpetuated under the present administration.
In these circumstances, the Museum, the University and the Community at large have many reasons to be congratulated. Among the first of these reasons there stands out Dr. Harrison’s staunch and unselfish devotion to well considered public interests, combined with his breadth of vision and intellectual force. The complement of this is the responsive attitude of the country to any movement under his leadership. It is also worthy of note that there is a close correspondence between the Museum’s interests and Dr. Harrison’s achievement. His long and productive public service as Provost of the University carried with it an unusual experience in dealing with the practical problems of education, and his purposes, as they were carried into effect, brought to bear an elevating influence in the Community that gradually extended itself throughout the Country and met with honored recognition abroad. The Museum’s proper work as an instrument for culture and for promoting education applies first to the City and the State, reaches out toward the national welfare and is echoed by responsive spheres of influence in other countries.
It is indeed rarely that a public institution has had at its head a succession of officers who, like Mr. Coxe and Dr. Harrison, from a pure sense of duty and devotion, have ever stood ready to give their time, their energies and their private means freely to its service. It is perhaps even more rare that an institution finds a man to its need who, by experience and by aptitude, is so eminently fitted to render such a service as Dr. Harrison. The motives which led him seven years ago to take up the active work of the Museum have already been stated and they underlie his interest today, but our understanding of that interest would be incomplete if we failed to take account of the fact that in the University Museum Dr. Harrison has found a field of labor that is in keeping with his ability, in harmony with his taste and worthy of his great energy and his distinguished career. He has often expressed his regret that, although Paris has the Louvre, although London has the British Museum and the South Kensington, and although New York has the Metropolitan, Philadelphia has nothing that corresponds to these great Museums. Yet each of these, in the city which it adorns, is considered not only a source of pleasure and recreation, but an indispensable factor in the intellectual and moral welfare of its population.
It is an unusual opportunity that now presents itself to Philadelphia to gain some of the privileges and elements of distinction that a Museum affords and that are enjoyed by every other great city in the world. With the confidence that Dr. Harrison inspires everywhere and with the support to which he is so eminently entitled and which has been accorded him in the past, there is no reason why his well considered plan for a Museum should not be quickly developed. If this plan should nevertheless fall short of complete fulfilment it will be through no failure on the part of Dr. Harrison, who has already shown his willingness to work and who has abundantly proved his public spirit.