In a historic partnership, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the University of Pennsylvania have teamed up to provide public access to an extraordinary historical collection. The University of Pennsylvania Libraries has acquired the archives of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Academy of Music in an agreement that will facilitate research and access to more than 150 years of Philadelphia’s rich musical history.
Conducting batons from the personal collection of Eugene Ormandy, including the American Symphony Orchestra League 1979 Gold Baton Award (in the top case). Photo by Jeff Fusco.
The materials document the early history of both institutions, starting with the time leading up to the Academy of Music’s opening in 1857 and The Philadelphia Orchestra’s founding in 1900, and trace the development of both organizations through the early 21st century.
Musicians Julia Li, Christine Lim, Yumi Kendall, and Che-Hung Chen of The Philadelphia Orchestra perform at the partnership event. Photo by Jeff Fusco.
The archives will become part of the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, where they will be made accessible to the public after being processed and catalogued. The Kislak Center is also home to the personal papers of legendary Philadelphia Orchestra music directors Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy and many other collections relating to the city’s musical and artistic heritage.
Page from a letter from Leopold Stokowski to Dr. Andrew Wheeler (secretary of the Orchestra Board) discussing his excitement at beginning as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s conductor, April 30, 1912. Credit Philadelphia Orchestra Association and Academy of Music Archives.
With records that include everything from early stock certificates and by-laws to conductor’s files, photographs, programs, sound recordings, administrative and financial documents, daily logbooks and journals of concerts and events, correspondence, and clippings, the archive will enable research by musicologists, architectural and urban historians, and practicing musicians and conductors. The partnership will also allow for continued growth over time: the institutions will collaborate to archive new materials produced by The Philadelphia Orchestra and will explore digitization of especially valuable research materials in all formats.
Pictured are Matías Tarnopolsky (President & CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Cultural Campus), Elizabeth Magill (President of University of Pennsylvania), and Constantia Constantinou (Director of Libraries, University of Pennsylvania). Photo by Eric Sucar.
The Penn Libraries will begin processing the collection, gradually allowing for access as descriptive guides, known as finding aids, are published to help researchers navigate the large collection. The process is expected to take around four years to complete. As materials are made available, there will likely be an immediate demand for their use, as the collections have been closed to researchers for the past 18 years.
Learn more about the historic partnership via video here, and this in-depth piece by The Philadelphia Inquirer.