A New Departure

Originally Published in 1910

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It is hoped that this first number of the Museum Journal will meet with a favorable reception on the part of the members, and of readers generally. It will be followed by other numbers at intervals of three months, with added features calculated to meet more fully the demands of all who take an interest in Museum matters. The first and chief object of the Journal is to convey to the members an accurate account of what the Museum is doing and to keep them in touch with its activities. The need for such a medium of communication, felt in the past, has of late been clearly indicated by a general demand for authoritative information along those lines of activity to which public attention has already been directed or upon the less advertised labors, which together justify our claims upon public attention. Such information, in order to reach the many, without prejudice to the few whose inclinations and opportunities have led them into the channels of special knowledge, must be presented without too many technical particulars. Accuracy of outline must take the place of abundance of detail. The Museum is an educational institution of wide connections. Its several larger series of publications, dealing with subjects of research and containing detailed results of investigations, are intelligible and interesting to the specialist but unprofitable to the public. On the other hand the public generally has the deeper interest in the Museum since it is erected for their benefit, while the members of the Museum and all who contribute -to its support have a peculiar interest in its operations and naturally desire to know what is being done. It has been thought that a quarterly journal would give the most efficient means of meeting these several needs.

The scope and purpose of the Journal make it a standard publication of merit, containing much information regarding exploration and kindred topics which cannot be had elsewhere. In addition to the regular review, it will contain short articles upon objects of special interest in the Museum. It will relate the history of expeditions in the field and give descriptions of all new acquisitions. It will form a magazine of valuable and entertaining matter appropriate to any library or reading room.

Growth of the Museum

In 1889 the University Museum was founded and the collections acquired at that time were installed in the Library building. In 1898 the fine new building designed by Cope & Stewardson, Frank Miles Day and Wilson Eyre was erected. The architects’ plan contemplate a beautiful and imposing edifice worthy of the object to which it is to be devoted, a noble adjunct to the University and a superb feature of the city. Situated on the west bank of the Schuylkill, it is designed, when complete with its great towering dome and graceful walls, to command the entire Schuylkill embankment of the future.

The ground for this great edifice has been made over by the city to the University, and the building erected in 1898, and now known as the University Museum, constitutes about one-fifth of the entire plan. In the meantime the growth of the collections has been so rapid that the present building is inadequate to hold them, and the time has come when an appeal must be made to the citizens of Philadelphia for the means of erecting the remainder of the building according to the architects’ plans. The exhibition rooms are becoming overcrowded, the storage rooms are full, and valuable collections which would surely come to us if we had this monumental building in which to house them, are in danger of going to other cities. The ends that are to be served are such that no one can be indifferent to the project. No better object of private benefaction could be conceived than this great Museum dedicated to Man and his works, aiming to reconstruct his thoughts and to unfold his visions in the past, and by the work of his own hands giving permanent form to these thoughts and substance to these visions.

As it gathers within its walls the harvest of cultures that men once gloried in, the Museum becomes a center for the spread of a higher culture in the present and in the future for all time.

Not less urgent than the need for a building is the call for an endowment. The generosity of those who have heretofore from year to year contributed to the maintenance of the Museum has been taxed more and more heavily as the expansion of the institution brought its inevitable increase in the budget. The present endowment is very small, and the annual deficit has to be met each year by voluntary contributions. In order to put the operation of the Museum on a sure basis an appeal must now be made for an endowment which will give an annual income of seventy-five thousand dollars. The Museum will then be in a position to hold its own and sustain without embarrassment the labors to which it is committed and the reputation to which it is entitled.

The collections that are assembled here have all been acquired through individuals and without assistance from the city or from the state or from any public moneys whatsoever. They represent the gifts of persons interested in the objects of the Museum and an expenditure of private fortune which, if computed at the present time, would come to a very large sum. Like all the other notable collections in America these have been built up under the influence of that characteristic attribute of the American people, their capacity for giving money for great objects, that has raised the American universities to the high level which they occupy and that makes the University of Pennsylvania in particular the famous seat of learning that it is. In view of this striking example and of the examples set by other great cities it is surely not without reason that we believe that means will be found to provide the money needed now so urgently for the building of the Museum and for an endowment that will enable it to fulfil its destined service to the community and to mankind.


When the collections were exhibited in the Library building the office of Director was filled by Mr. Stewart Culin, but with the opening of the new building in 1899 this office was abolished, and from that time till the present year the Museum has been without a Director, each Curator reporting to the Board of Managers and conducting independently the affairs of his section. At the January meeting of the Board of Managers the office of Director was created anew and the new order took effect on February 1st. The reorganization of the entire Museum on the basis of a responsible head has accordingly been undertaken and the Director has been engaged since his appointment in effecting those changes and adjustments which correspond to the new condition of things, and in introducing those measures of control which are necessary to give effect to the resolution of the Board, and upon which the affairs of the Museum are now to be conducted. This result has not been fully brought about at once, but will be achieved as speedily as possible.

Cite This Article

"A New Departure." The Museum Journal I, no. 1 (June, 1910): 2-3. Accessed June 22, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/7/

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