& Digitization Project
The Print Department’s next decade began as the last decade had -- with a pressing need for additional space. As part of a library-wide renovation, the Print Department greatly expanded its second floor collection storage space. By moving all graphic items out of the reading room and into an adjacent locked area, we were able to provide better security for our holdings. A relocated exhibition gallery on the first floor gave curators a more prominent space to display library collections, and the gallery’s inaugural exhibition originated with Assistant Curator Susan Oyama’s visual exploration of Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek.
The Print Department had no problem filling its expanded storage space with the continued acquisitions of new graphics. In 1991 we accepted on deposit hundreds of large format photographs of the Pennsylvania Railroad taken by Philadelphia photographer William Rau in the 1890s. After extensive conservation treatment, these photographs formed the basis of the 2002 exhibition and book Traveling the Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau.
With the help of Library Company shareholders, in 1992 we acquired a significant collection of early paper photography. Almost 200 paper prints and paper negatives created by Philadelphia novelist, playwright, and photographic experimenter Robert Montgomery Bird in the early 1850s found a new home at the Library Company.
Under the guidance of Sarah Weatherwax, who took over as Curator in 1996, the Print Department continued to acquire significant graphic material. In 2000, Trustee William H. Helfand donated more than 7,500 trade cards relating to proprietary medicines, physicians, pharmacists, and other health professionals.
In the same year, we also acquired several late-19th-century scrapbook albums relating to the Lewis family of Philadelphia. The albums detail the history of the family through text, original watercolors, photographs, and other pieces of ephemera and were featured in the August 2006 issue of The Magazine Antiques celebrating the 275th anniversary of the Library Company.
|Robert Bird. [Rooftop View], Calotype. Philadelphia, ca. 1852.||G. Albert Lewis. Side Window. 3d Story Front Room, 16th & Walnut. Watercolor in Old Houses and Stores with Memorabilia. Philadelphia, 1900. Gift of Oliver E. Allen.|
Work continued on making the ever expanding collection more fully accessible to researchers through the launching of several cataloging initiatives. The National Endowment for the Humanities supported a two-year project to catalog graphics relating to education and philanthropy. In 2001 cataloging of the department’s Afro-Americana material was completed with generous funding from the Caroline J. S. Sanders Charitable Trust, No. II, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, and the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation. Starting in 1997, all newly created catalog records for Print Department material began appearing in the Library Company’s online catalog WolfPAC, and by 2001 over 7,500 old graphics catalog cards had been converted to an electronic format for inclusion on WolfPAC .