Four centuries of history-makers that connect Penn and the rich environment in which it is located

Philadelphia: Culture and Community

Marian Anderson giving a speech.

Philadelphia has long been a vibrant center for the arts and for diverse and vital communities. Penn Libraries seeks to help preserve and provide access to the rich heritage of its home city. With a particular strength in music, for example, the papers of pioneering contralto Marian Anderson, the recently acquired Philadelphia Orchestra Archive and papers of its legendary conductors Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, we are also building collections in the performing and visual arts. With the recent addition of staff positions dedicated to civic engagement, we are dedicated to connecting the city’s communities to Penn Libraries, and to working with those communities to help preserve their histories in novel ways, such as a newly launched oral history project focused on mentoring relationships among jazz musicians.

Anchor Collections

Portrait photograph of Marian Anderson looking to her left

Marian Anderson Collection

Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was world-renowned as a contralto. She also challenged racial barriers in the United States. Her dramatic open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, after she was banned from singing in Constitution Hall, was delivered to 75,000 listeners. She was the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

Benjamin Franklin Papers

The Benjamin Franklin Papers (over 800 items) include correspondence and documents, 1705-1788, primarily relating to Franklin's stay in France during the American Revolution and his role in the negotiations between France and the Continental Congress. Some earlier documents and printed materials are also part of the collection.

Otto E. Albrecht Collection

Otto Edwin Albrecht (1899-1984) was an internationally known music bibliographer and professor of romance languages and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania.