Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Glencairn Museum (January 16, 1982)

museumopen.jpgExactly twenty-five years ago today, Glencairn Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time. The opening event was described in the March issue of the newsletter:



Everyone comes to Glencairn with memories. It was a home that transcended its majestic setting. The Raymond Pitcairn family made sure that it was a community resource as well. That is its legacy.

The sphere of the Great Hall is alive with remembrance: of music, dances, art, history, culture, warmth. All of it revolved around the church, elevating each event and our recollections of it.

Now Glencairn is home for the Academy Museum, and it is a natural transition.

The graciousness with which the Raymond Pitcairn family furnished their home remains. Glencairn, for all its formal splendor, was never remote, sterile, intimidating. As a museum, it is as inviting as it always was, for Christmas Sing or springtime dance.

For years, there had not been the appropriate space to display the Academy Museum’s impressive collection of treasures. So they were consigned to the Library attic. Now they have the setting they deserve, as well as the growing expertise and continued devotion of a dedicated staff and committee.

All of this made a stunning impression at the official opening of the Glencairn Museum on a night when the warmth of this special occasion transcended the numbing cold outside.

Artifacts from ancient worlds to New Church memorabilia are displayed in specially prepared rooms throughout Glencairn. Each setting is tasteful, professional, exquisite.

What Glencairn stands for—to the church, to the Academy, and to its friends—was beautifully expressed by our host and Director of Research and Resources E. Bruce Glenn, and in toasts by President Alfred Acton and Bishop Louis King.

The appreciation of those attending this opening—as well as a characteristically superb concert the following afternoon—reflected a consensus that this museum is a perfect way to carry on the spirit of Glencairn. It is especially heartwarming to realize that this home we have all loved for many reasons will not be lost as a community resource, but enhanced, and that our children will grow up with this unique museum as a real cultural heritage.

There is no doubt that the museum has found its home” (Bruce Henderson, Academy Museum Notes, Vol. 6, No. 3, March 1982).

The opening paragraph of the most recent version of Glencairn Museum’s mission statement reads as follows:

“Glencairn Museum exists to educate a diverse audience about the history of religion, using art and artifacts from a variety of cultures and time periods. We seek to build understanding between people of all beliefs through an appreciation of common spiritual history and values. The museum’s special focus is to preserve and interpret the art, culture, and history of the New Church.”

According to Professor Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, noted scholar of religious art at Georgetown University,

“Glencairn Museum has evolved into the fulfillment of Bishop Benade’s vision of a museum dedicated to the teaching of the history of religions. It is unique in its dedication to collecting and displaying the art of world religions in the United States. The only other such museums of which I am aware are St. Mungo’s Museum of Art and Religion in Glasgow and the Museum of World Religions in Taipei. While there are museums that specialize in modern religious art, such as the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art in St. Louis and the Gallery of Modern Religious Art in Vatican City, their focus is narrower than the wide lens of Glencairn Museum” (Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, “From Instruction to the Education of Vision: Glencairn Museum,” American Arts Quarterly 21.4 (2004): 23-29).

In recent years Glencairn has received considerable attention in the press. For information about the museum’s history and mission, see “Glencairn Museum: History and Mission,” from Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief (2.1, 2006), or a feature article (975KB pdf), “The Jewel of Bryn Athyn,” from Montgomery County Town & Country Living (Fall 2006). Recently Glencairn received Philadelphia magazine’s “Best of Philly 2006″ award in the “Family Matters” category.

Although no formal celebration of Glencairn Museum’s 25th anniversary has been planned, the milestone was announced this past Sunday by Museum Director Stephen Morley at the opening of the museum’s latest exhibit, “In Company with Angels.” More than 200 people attended the opening to see the seven eight-foot tall freestanding stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, depicting the “Angels of the Seven Churches of Asia” (Revelation 1-3). This is the first opportunity for the public to see all seven of the Tiffany windows together in more than forty years. The installation of the windows in the apse of Glencairn’s Upper Hall is reminiscent of their original location in the heptagonal apse of the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church of Cincinnati. A brochure about the exhibit is available online (253KB pdf). “In Company with Angels” may be viewed for free Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. between January 20 and June 9, 2007. The windows also may be seen by appointment, weekdays, as part of a tour, by calling Glencairn at 267-502-2600.

Photo: from the official opening of Glencairn Museum, January 16, 1982 (Academy Museum Notes, Vol. 6, No. 3, March 1982, p. 6).

January 16, 2007 | Posted by: Ed Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact