University of Pennsylvania Libraries

Updated
1 Dec 2016

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Jo Davidson, "Walt Whitman," 1957, bronze on granite base statue. Photo by Alec Rogers for the Association for Public Art, 2016.

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"Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy," Blue Earth Review, “What Would Walt Whitman Do?,” 2016, bumper sticker. Photo by Lynne Farrington.

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"Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy," East Camden ferry dock and Philadelphia skyline, 2017, digital photograph. Photo by John J.H. Phillips.

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Wharton Esherick sitting at his trestle table in his studio, photograph, circa 1931. Photo courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum.

The university library that Benjamin Franklin founded—one of the first in the country—is the only University of Pennsylvania institution to have been in continuous operation since 1750. In recent years, it has expanded its curatorial mission to present long-running, thoroughly researched exhibitions that draw on the library’s expansive archives to approach a wide range of artworks and complement the materials in its collection. In 2010, the Center funded an exhibition entitled Wharton Esherick and the Birth of the American Modern, which explored the career of Wharton Esherick, a Philadelphia native whose work forged a link between the arts and crafts movement and mid-20th-century modernism. A 2018 Center grant supports Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, a region-wide series of cultural events designed to reassess Walt Whitman (1819–92) and his impact on art and society, on the occasion of his 200th birthday.