Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

To Be Modern

In 1921, Philadelphia’s venerable Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts mounted the first comprehensive display of American modernist works in an American museum with the ground­breaking “Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings Showing the Later Tendencies in Art.” The exhibition’s selection com­mittee, composed of such “moderns” as Thomas Hart Benton, Arthur B. Carles, Joseph Stella, and Alfred Stieglitz, chose two hundred and eighty works by eighty-eight artists, including Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Florine Stettheimer, Max Weber, and Marguerite and William Zorach. By including a range of diverse “tenden­cies,” from the more traditional Ashcan School artists to the avant-garde mem­bers of Stieglitz’s 291 circle, the organizers demonstrated that mod­ernism was not an exclusively European art form, but an American style as well. Only a few of the pieces were sold­ – some to the contentious collector Albert C. Barnes, founder of Merion’s Barnes Foundation – but the show attracted large crowds and garnered many favor­able reviews.

Responses to “Exhibition of Paintings Showing the Later Tendencies in Art” were varied and extreme. Of two New York critics who considered it the finest exhibition of modern art ever staged, one reviewer suggested that New York should follow Philadelphia’s lead in em­phasizing American modernism. Other reviews were far less positive. Some crit­ics considered modernism to be nothing more than a fad, but one vehement writer went so far as to compare the ex­hibition to a “Chamber of Horrors,” calling the works “the most atrocious de­ficiencies and abnormalities.” In one attempt to discredit the show, the Philadelphia Art Alliance sponsored a series of lectures by psychiatrists and neurologists who claimed that the partic­ipating artists were “imbeciles, children, and ignoramuses.”

Currently on view at the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, “To Be Modern: American Encounters with Cézanne and Company” recreates, in ab­breviated form, the 1921 exhibition. The exhibition, coinciding with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s retrospec­tive, “Cézanne,” provides a fascinating context for the reception of Paul Cézanne’s post-impressionist style, as well as other avant-garde approaches, by a select circle of American artists and pa­trons. (“Cézanne” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through Sunday, September 1 [1996].) “To Be Modern” features ninety paintings and works on paper by both familiar and lesser-known figures drawn from major museums and private collections. Among the forty-six artists included in this exhibit are Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Robert Laurent, Charles Demuth, and John Sloan.

Accompanied by an illustrated cata­logue, “To Be Modern: American Encounters with Cézanne and Company” will continue through Sunday, September 29 [1996]. The exhibition will also be supplemented by numerous programs and activities, including family workshops, lectures, panel discussions, gallery talks, jazz performances, and a film series.

The museum is located at the corner of Broad and Cherry Streets, two blocks north of Philadelphia City Hall. Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; and Sunday, 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. Admission is charged.

To obtain more information, write: Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or telephone (215) 972-7600.


Preserving Penn

More than three thousand seven­teenth-century land surveys bearing the signature of William Penn, dating be­tween 1682 and 1684 and from 1699 to 1701, the two occasions when the founder visited his beloved colony, are being conserved in one of the most am­bitious programs ever undertaken by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. These documents are just a fraction of a series of one hundred and forty-four thousand pieces safeguarded by the Pennsylvania State Archives since the early 1980s.

The series of documents tells the story of early land dispersal and settle­ment throughout Pennsylvania. Each document, generally measuring about six by nine inches, contains the name of the applicant, a description of the prop­erty and its location, and the signature of the official certifying the application. At least half of the documents were signed by Penn himself. Many contain the Penn family seal and a map of the land.

The entire collection of one hundred and forty-four thousand documents, in poor condition when entrusted to the Pennsylvania State Archives, had been laminated in the 1950s. Lamination, a process that fuses sheets of plastic (usually acetate) to paper, commonly used in docu­ment preservation following World War II, is now known to accelerate the deteriora­tion of paper rather than preserve it. Chemicals, particularly acids, contained in the acetate laminate generally dissolve paper, causing it to become brittle and fragile. The laminated papers ultimately become translucent and impossible to read. Acidic vapors can also adversely af­fect nearby non-laminated materials.

A recent grant of more than one hun­dred and seventy thousand dollars from The Pew Charitable Trusts has under­written a three year program during which three thousand of the endangered documents will be stabilized and con­served. A certified paper conservator is currently delaminating the documents in a solvent bath, after which tears are painstakingly mended. The papers are treated with an alkali solution to neutral­ize their acidity and then encapsulated with a clear polyester film (best de­scribed as a benign “sandwich” in which a document floats between sheets of film rather than being fused to the material).

Funding by The Pew Charitable Trusts will enable the Pennsylvania State Archives to conserve only two percent of the land surveys, and contributions are being sought to conserve additional doc­uments. Stabilization, conservation, and encapsulation of each document costs approximately fifty dollars. Contributions are tax deductible. Internships and volunteer opportunities are also available.

Individuals and organizations inter­ested in contributing to this worthwhile program should write: “Preserve Penn Surveys,” Friends of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, P.O. Box 11466, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1466; or telephone (717) 787-2407.


Pennsy’s Sesqui

For more than a century, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)-known affectionately as the “Pennsy” for gener­ations-was a household word in communities throughout the Northeast and the Midwest. From the elegance of its most famous train, “The Broadway Limited,” to its thundering one hundred car freight trains, the PRR was known as a corporate presence that dominated American transportation and commerce.

The Pennsy was chartered on April 13, 1846, to link Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and provide a cross-state rail link connecting Philadelphia with the West. By 1874, its system had extended from New York to Chicago and St. Louis, becoming the country’s busiest and most powerful railroad, hauling more passen­gers and goods than any other rail line. Renowned for its engineering achieve­ments, the PRR was known as the “Standard Railroad of the World.” During the 1920s, the company gener­ated gross revenues of six hundred million dollars a year and employed nearly three hundred thousand people. A writer for the May 1936 edition of Fortune magazine was not immune to its omnipresence.

Do not think of the Pennsylvania Railroad as a business enterprise. Think of it as a nation …. It blankets the lives of 100,000 citizens, like a nation, it requires an alle­giance as single as a patriot’s … and it is a nation that is always at war, a war that first started when the first train ran in 1846 and will end when the last locomotive fire or fuse burns out. Its fronts are time, death and weather, and 85 percent of the population is at the front every day …. It owns, controls or operates not merely locomotives and cars and tracks and stations but also ferryboats, and tugboats, and derricks and wharves and snowsheds and bridges and grain elevators and power plants and a telephone system and sewer companies and city lots and coal mines and timberland and commissaries and car factories and locomotive factories and brass foundries and iron foundries and machine shops and water reservoirs and planing mills and hotels and a chain of YMCA’s and fleets of trucks and an oil mixing plant and stock­yards and pasture land and dwellings and laboratories and traveling cranes and trestles and ice plants and hook and ladders and a million other things, all of which are ad­juncts to the moving of trains …. The Pennsylvania is the most powerful of all the rail nations in this hemisphere.

As a major hauler of passengers, ma­terials, and goods, the PRR exerted a tremendous impact on Pennsylvania during the industrial age. The company operated nearly twenty-seven thousand miles of track, performing a daily mira­cle that the Fortune writer described as “moving five thousand gigantic, tem­peramental, ponderous, menacing groupings of tonnage precariously from here to there.”

About two hundred railroads served the country in the 1930s, but the Pennsy carried ten percent of all freight and twenty percent of all passengers. It ranked among the nation’s top five cor­porations. The company spawned entire communities, such as Altoona, Blair County, where it operated massive shops. During World War II, both male and female employees performed hero­ically by helping move millions of troops and tons of military equipment and sup­plies. Following the war, however, the PRR’s fortunes took a downward turn.

Growing airline and highway compe­tition, over-regulation, and industrial decline in the Pennsy’s territory began to erode its fortunes. A solution was the merger, in 1968, with the PRR’s arch­-rival, the New York Central. Instead of streamlining operations, however, the merger proved disastrous and the new Penn Central Corporation went bank­rupt. It was the intervention of the federal government in the creation of Amtrak and Conrail in the 1970s that revived rail service in the PRR’s region.

At one time the world’s largest corpo­ration, the PRR pioneered the modern corporate operating organizational struc­ture. For decades it served America as employer, conveyance, neighbor, con­sumer of capital goods, political giant, and corporate presence, affecting the lives of Pennsylvanians to a greater ex­tent than perhaps any business enterprise before or since. Today, the Pennsy Railroad lives still in the memo­ries of countless rail historians and enthusiasts and former employees and their families.

From Friday through Sunday, October 11-13 [1996], the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Lancaster County, will conduct the Pennsylvania Railroad Sesquicentennial Symposium at the nearby Historic Strasburg Inn. Speakers will discuss a variety of topics, particularly the company’s impact on the Commonwealth and the country.

For additional information, write: Pennsylvania Railroad Sesquicentennial Symposium, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, P. O. Box 15, Strasburg, PA 17579; or telephone (717) 687-8628. Registration is required.


Hidden Treasures

The roots of Philadelphia’s Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies extend back to John Balch, who emigrated from Somerset, England, to America in 1658. A descendant of Balch and the matriarch of a prominent Philadelphia family, Emily Swift Balch (1835-1917) made the initial bequest that created the multicul­tural library, archive, museum, and education center. Her will stipulated that her estate be held in trust for her sons Edwin Swift Balch and Thomas Willing Balch during their lifetimes. If they died without children, her estate would be used to establish a Balch library. The sons specified that the new organization be called The Balch Institute and that “it shall include both a good library and an auxiliary museum.”

In the 1960s, trustees of the Balch es­tate asked the Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia to help interpret and imple­ment the bequests, and the court worked to resolve legal issues and create an or­ganization consistent with the family’s intentions. Emphasis was given to the development of a practical institution that would serve a useful purpose in the community. As a new concern for the country’s ethnic and immigrant heritage emerged in the mid-1960s, Orphans’ Court expressed interest in preserving, documenting, and interpreting the immi­grant experience. The Balch Institute was formally incorporated in April 1971.

To celebrate its twenty-fifth anniver­sary, The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies has mounted an exhibition, “Hidden Treasures,” featuring pho­tographs, artifacts and objects, and documents representative of the mass immigration at the turn of the century. The exhibition showcases pieces brought to the United States by immigrants and refugees, as well as items made, used, or adapted in response to new needs and conditions. Highlighting the contribu­tions of the community to The Balch Institute, “Hidden Treasures” includes many objects representing the personal and private side of life and reflects the accommodations that immigrants have made in order to adjust to life in their new country. The exhibition also offers visitors a history of the organization and its founders, as well as an overview of the programs and services offered to the community today.

Objects on view include a Cuban refugee “Soviet” inner tube raft dating to the 1970s. Named for inner tubes which originated in the former Soviet Union, the raft was made from two inner tubes tied together with canvas stretched across them. Attracted by economic op­portunity in the United States, Cuban refugees risked their lives by crossing the treacherous Straits of Florida in the precariously crafted rafts.

“Hidden Treasures” also features three identical posters produced by the U.S. Food Administration in English, Hebrew, and Italian that used an image of the Statue of Liberty to inspire new and recent arrivals to support the na­tion’s war effort during World War II. On exhibit for the first time, a cart made in Sicily, Italy, and decorated with scenes of Italian history was acquired by the La Rosa Pasta Company as a symbol of Italian heritage and display ed at the company’s offices before being donated to The Balch Institute. A ceramic figurine of an elephant carried to the United States by a Vietnamese merchant forced to flee his country in the early 1970s is also included in “Hidden Treasures.” The figurine was broken during passage, but was painstakingly repaired in order to be sold in America.

The diverse holdings of The Balch Institute, devoted to the continuing col­lection and interpretation of materials focusing on ethnic, racial, and immigra­tion experiences from both historical and contemporary perspectives, represent more than eighty groups. Most of the collections consist of gifts from individu­als, families, and organizations. This material has been augmented by objects and ephemera purchased for study and exhibition. Although the collections con­centrate heavily on immigration during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they contain contemporary pieces documenting the ethnic revival of the 1970s and 1980s and the arrival of new immigrant groups, especially those of Asia. Materials reflecting ethnic and racial discrimination, a painful part of the experience for most immigrant and racial minorities in the United States, compose a major part of the collections.

“Hidden Treasures” will remain on exhibit through March 31, 1997. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Admission is charged.

Additional information is available by writing: The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 18 South Seventh St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or by telephon­ing (215) 925-8090.