Free Library of Philadelphia, Rosenbach Museum reveal ‘historic’ merge

The Free Library of Philadelphia and The Rosenbach Museum and Library on Wednesday announced that they will be merging into The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.

The move will create one of the largest collections of rare books, manuscripts and artworks in the country and enable The Rosenbach to receive city funding in order to expand its programs and staff.

“The aim of this partnership is to build and sustain collections of Americana and English literature that are among the greatest in the world while furthering Philadelphia’s status as an educational and cultural leader,” Free Library of Philadelphia President Siobhan Reardon said in a statement.

The two institutions have enjoyed a relationship for more than 65 years – the Rosenbach gave the Free Library one of its first rare book gifts in 1947 and Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach served as an adviser to many Free Library Rare Book Department donors.

“The partnership between the Free Library and The Rosenbach Museum and Library makes perfect sense, from our joint historical past to our aligned missions to inspire curiosity,” Rosenbach Museum and Library Director Derick Dreher said.

“Uniting these two great collections will result in increased community and scholarly interest, boost educational programming, produce stellar exhibitions, and create a bright future for some of the rarest and most precious collections in existence.”

The Rosenbach Museum’s collection contains 330,000 rare books and manuscripts and 20,000 works of art on paper.

The museum has the largest collection of Maurice Sendak ephemera, with over 10,000 documents.

It also contains the original manuscript for James Joyces’ “Ulysses” and Bram Stoker’s notes from “Dracula.”

The Free Library’s Rare Book Department is comprised of 100,000 books and manuscripts with materials spanning over 4,000 years.

“The Rosenbach Museum and Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia have both worked to advance what they call ‘the life of the mind’ for many years. In combination, they become a stronger, more robust institution,” William Penn Foundation Board Chair David Haas said.

“Their collections and programming complement each other effectively, increasing opportunities for learning, exploration and creative pursuits by residents of all ages, and reinforcing Philadelphia as a vibrant, innovative city with world-class culture.”

The merger will be funded over the next five years by a number of philanthropic organizations, including The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library will remain at its current location at 2008 Delancey Place.

“The Pew Charitable Trusts applauds the visionary leadership of these two venerable Philadelphia institutions, who made a bold decision that will protect some of the world’s most significant and rare works of literature,” CEO Rebecca Rimel said.

“Organizations entrusted with the wise stewardship of their mission and resources must be willing to make informed and difficult decisions that ensure the long-term success of their ventures, and this merger is an inspiring example of two leaders and their boards doing so to best serve the public interest.”


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