The Rosenbach Museum and Library may be one of Philadelphia’s best kept secrets. Founded by brothers Philip and Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach in 1954, the museum holds what is perhaps one of the most preeminent assemblages of rare books, manuscripts and European artifacts of any private institution in the United States. This impressive collection and the constant fundraising needs of a non-profit museum like the Rosenbach captured the attention of Rachel Johnson ’13, who interned there this summer.
The collection, which is located in the brothers’ two adjacent Philadelphia townhouses, includes such rarities as the first published copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richards Almanac, the manuscript for James Joyce’s famed Ulysses, a number of Maurice Sendak original drawings and a collection of silver, gold, antiques and portraits from the Stuart monarchs of England. Much of the museum’s original turn of the century décor and grandeur is also preserved, allowing patrons to experience both a house museum and a collection of artifacts at the same location.
As a history concentrator who aspires to a career in development, Johnson was excited to find a career related experience that would allow her to combine her two passions. Her internship is supported by a stipend from the Richard and Patsy Couper Fund, which is administered by Hamilton’s Maurice Horowitch Career Center.
The Rosenbach Museum is distinctive not only for its collections, but also for the unique approach the museum takes to giving tours. Curators allow museum visitors to have a hands-on experience with certain manuscripts and artifacts, and nearly all of the museum’s collections are accessible to scholars for use in research.
Johnson works as a research and development intern at the Rosenbach Museum where her work consists or projects aimed at gaining publicity for the museum and increasing donations. She said that through her internship, “I was provided with the opportunity to help promote and preserve the importance of these manuscripts and pieces of art … [and] to ensure that individuals have access to these collections.”
Her work includes individual research and development projects, including the updating and streamlining of museum tour methods, the creation of new membership materials and the creation of a database of high-level donor information. Johnson remarked that she was most surprised by “how different museum development officers are from higher education development offices. “From size, to focus and operation, museum fundraising must target donors in a very different way because they do not have the automatic loyalty that comes from alumni,” she said. Many of her projects will go on to be presented directly to the Rosenbach Museum’s board of directors. The small size of the Rosenbach Museum allowed Johnson to witness nearly every element of the institution’s operation, making her experience truly useful in preparing her for a career.
While she believes that this internship has made her more likely to pursue a career in development, Johnson said that she’s also now more open to exploring other options. She said, “I will leave my internship with a more flexible mindset as I apply to jobs after graduation.”
Johnson is a graduate of The Shipley School (Pa.)