Maggie’s Weblog


The Third Assignment-The Rosenbach Museum and Library
Sunday, February 17, 2008, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In 2007, Best of Philly ranked the Rosenbach Museum and Library as “the Best Museum in Philadelphia You’ve Never Been To.” The Rosenbach Museum and Library is committed to make it the best museum in Philly that everyone has been to.

The Rosebach is located in the Rittenhouse area of Philadelphia, on DeLancey between 20th and 21st. The museum is housed in the four story row home of the Rosenbach brothers, Phillip and Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach. Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, though the youngest of his siblings, was the one with the most formal education, receiving his PhD in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. He spent his childhood days helping out at his uncle’s book shop located on Chestnut between 12th and 13th. This was where his love of books, particularly rare manuscripts and first editions, was cultivated. His brother Phillip was an antiques dealer in Philadelphia, and the two partnered to run a business which consisted of show rooms in both Philadelphia and New York, as well as building the libraries of some of the most influential business men of their time, including the financier J.P. Morgan. After the deaths of both brothers, the Rosenbach Museum and Library was opened to the public in 1954.

The first floor of the house was originally used as a space to entertain wealthy buyers. There is a formal sitting room as well as a formal dining room, both of which display fabulous pieces from the Rosenbach collection. The pieces displayed are not identical to the pieces that were in the house when the brothers lived there as some are from the New York office, and some represent new acquisitions. There is also a changing installation which is now featuring a dining room place setting of china with different birds pictured. The china display is representative of the brothers’ love of birds. We were told on the tour that they had as many as 30 different types of birds in the house.

The second floor of the house, currently closed for installation of a Maurice Sendak exhibit, was the apartment of Phillip Rosenbach. The exhibit should open in early May.

The third floor of the house was the apartment of the youngest brother, Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach. It is here where his amazing collection of rare manuscripts and first edition books is truly showcased. Among display are pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses manuscript (all 900 of which are in the Rosenbach collection), first edition copies of many of the writings of America’s founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, as well as editions of Shakespeare and other monumental writers through the 19th century. You can also make an appointment with the reference library to look at any of the books housed in the museum.The third floor is also home to the recreation of Marianne Moore’s Greenwich Village apartment. She donated all of her things to the museum if they promised to recreate the interior of her apartment within the Rosenbach.

The fourth floor, which was originally home to the house servants, now serves as offices to the museum.

After visiting the Rosenbach, I would definitely recommend it to people. You must take a tour to see the collection, and tours begin on the hour on the first floor of the house. It is only $8 ($5 with student id), and the Rosenbach and Mutter Museum have a combined ticket for $15 which allows you to visit both museums. The museum is currently trying to get as much of its content online as possible, and the website is quite extensive. Overall I think that it’s a very interesting place with a lot of history contained between the walls. In fact, the collection is quite sizable so there are changing and traveling exhibitions on display, which means you will never have the same experience twice!

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[…] a little place in Philadelphia called the Rosenbach Museum. Now, I haven’t been there yet, although the women I e-mailed with was very cordial. You see, […]

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