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  • Rosenbach Museum and LibraryRosenbach Museum and Library Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    The Rosenbach Museum and Library is actually located in two houses, side by side, both from the 19th century and townhouses, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These marvelous houses contain the collections and artifacts of Philip Rosenbach and younger brother, Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach. The two brothers were the owners of the Rosenbach Company that became the main dealer of rare books, decorative arts and manuscripts in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Rosenbach was the main person to see about rare books, helping to build libraries like the Huntington, the Widener at Harvard and the Folger Shakespeare Library. The museum is like a panorama of European and American culture through its treasures of history, literature and art. In April, 2008, the museum and library would receive the official state historical marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that recognized the long term contributions of the museum's co-founder, Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach. They commended his legacy as one of the nation's best rare book dealers and his continued contributions to the city and world, by marking his house, or both houses, 2008-2010 Delancy Place in the city's historic Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The majority of the houses are filled with spectacular furniture and decorative arts that were acquired by the brothers while they lived in them. The furniture is mostly 18th century English with many marvelous examples of Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Chippendale, Vile and Adam. Another magnificent piece is the olivewood box with bronze dore mounts that was created for Charles II, a major Philadelphia highboy and an American recamier sofa with carving that was fashioned by Samuel McIntire. There is a beautiful collection of English silver and gold that dates to the 17th and mid 18th centuries that has wonderful masterpieces by Hester Bateman, Paul Storr and numerous items that were created for the British royal family. There is more than a thousand portrait miniatures in one collection that has Nicolas Hilliard miniature of James I, as well as the only known portrait of Cervantes when he was young and a very famous self-portrait of Major Andre that was made just before he was executed. There are fantastic collections of 18th century porcelain, drawings, sculpture, paintings and glass. In 1993, the foundation was able to buy the house next door, 2008 Delancy Place, and has given the museum ample room to expand their facilities and display area.  The Americana collection of rare books and manuscripts is one of the most important, incredible, unimaginable treasures of this nation, and starts with the accounts of early voyages and stories of exploration, that includes a copy of Antonio Pigafetta's account of Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the planet and rare tracts that pertain to the settling of Virginia. It is splendid that the books are corroborated and complemented by manuscript material, just as it is for all the rest of the glorious collection. There are letters by Cortes, de Soto and Pizarro, that contains the letters of Cortes from 1532 to the Council of the Indies that asks them for permission to start an expedition to go and explore the coastline of California. The colonial settlement period is also seen with early accounts and prominent religious tracts, especially those that pertain to the many missions of the Indians, plus a collection of Indian Captivity Tales.  The first three books that were ever printed in the western hemisphere are here; from Mexico in 1543-1544, Lima from 1584-1585 and the special Bay Palm Book, the very first book printed in this country, in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1661. There are more than 100 letters written by George Washington about the American Revolution, the original manuscript resolution of the Continental Congress, and a magnificent collection of documents signed by those gentlemen of the Declaration of Independence. There is Commodore Barry's ship papers that outline the start of the American navy and a wonderful set of Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanacs that contains the only surviving copy of the 1733 first edition, first print. Oh what a marvelous fantastic treasure this man has developed and preserved for his countrymen. The list is exhaustive and expansive, making sure that the only way to fully appreciate this fabulous collection is to go there to the museum and library and spend hours? days?, perhaps as much time as you need to slowly peruse the finest collection of materials written by Americans in the dawn of our nation. 

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  • University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & AnthropologyUniversity of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthrology Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is usually referred to as the University Museum and it is located in University City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university museum has become a world renown research and educational institution that is devoted to the understanding of cultural diversity and the continued search for the history of the human race, through over 400 archaeological and anthropological exploration across the world. Provost William Pepper talked the trustees of the university into building a fireproof building in 1887, to contain relics that would be discovered in an upcoming expedition to the ancient site of Nippur in Iraq, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European and North American museums were often sponsoring expeditions and excavations in the Mediterranean and near East regions, sharing the finds with the host countries. It was in this context that the museum acquired the big majority of its incredible collection, and by doing this, created a documented archaeological context that increases the value of any relic in regards to its anthropological and archaeological presentation and research. Currently, the museum contains three floors of space that showcase the magnificent artifacts that were discovered through excavations. These include items from Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, the ancient Mediterranean world, Oceania, Egypt, Africa, the Levant, South and East Asia, and the Americas.  The museum is located in a Beaux arts building that is considered to be one of the main landmarks of the university and although there have been numerous additions, is only one third of the ambitious designs that were going to make this one of the biggest museum structures in the country. Highlights of the extant building contains a prominent rotunda and many gardens that include an Egyptian papyrus. The museum was designed by numerous city architects, and everyone of them was an instructor for the university. The first part was finished in 1899 and held the discoveries from the expedition to Nippur, and in 1915 the rotunda that contains the Harrison Auditorium in the basement was finished. The Coxe Memorial Wing was designed by Charles Klauder and opened in 1926 to hold the Egyptian collection and in 1929, the Sharpe Wing was added. The museum collections can be separated into two distinct divisions; archaeology, housing the relics that were acquired from excavations and digs, and ethnology, which are the ideas and objects that have been collected from living peoples. Over 30 galleries showcase these fabulous relics from around the world and down through the ages.

January 11, 2011