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SC 11

Wasserman, Jeanne L. Papers 1952-2004: A Guide

Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The President and Fellows of Harvard College

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: SC 11
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Creator: Wasserman, Jeanne L., 1915-2006.
Title: Papers of Jeanne L. Wasserman, 1952-2004: A Guide
Date(s): 1952-2004
Quantity: 19 linear feet (35 file boxes, 1 half file box, 3 5.5x8.5 card boxes, 1 record carton, oversize materials)
Abstract: Personal papers of Jeanne L. Wasserman, Honorary Curator of 19th and 20th Century Sculpture at the Fogg Museum from 1969-c.1987.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The collection was donated to the Harvard Art Museums Archives by Jeanne Wasserman's heirs in April 2006.

Processing Information:

The collection was processed from November 2010 to January 2011 by Erin Murphy with assistance from Gabrielle Lang.

Conditions on Access:

Access: Unrestricted.

Conditions on Use:

Copyright: The donor has transferred any copyright held in these papers to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museum Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.
Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Related Material

The Harvard Art Museums Archives holds a collection of Ms. Wasserman's curatorial papers, created during her tenure at the Fogg Museum; files in the Art Museums' exhibition records contain further material about Ms. Wasserman's exhibitions. An oral history with Ms. Wasserman and the Jeanne and Max Wasserman papers, [ca. 1960-1975], dedicated to their 180 Beacon collection are held at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.


Jeanne Wasserman (née Leonard) was born March 19, 1915 in New York City, and later moved to New Rochelle, New York. Her family, of German-Jewish descent, immigrated to the United States in the pre-Civil War era. Wasserman's grandfather was a successful businessman, who paid for Jeanne's private high school and later, her college education at Radcliffe College, which culminated in a degree in English literature in 1936.
Ms. Wasserman met her husband, Max Wasserman, on a blind date, shortly before her graduation from Radcliffe. The two married in 1938, once Jeanne was convinced Max could support her. The Wassermans had three children, Peter, Suzanne, and Nancy. Ms. Wasserman began her career doing the advertising for her husband's business, Wasco Flashing. When he sold the business in the 1950's to work in real estate, Ms. Wasserman began working in the art field.
Having taken classes at the Fogg Museum while she was at Radcliffe, Ms. Wasserman was eager to return, and did so in 1962, as a research assistant to then director, John Coolidge. In 1969, she was named the Honorary Curator of 19th- and 20th-Century Sculpture, a position she held for about 2 decades. While at the Fogg, Ms. Wasserman was in charge of a number of renowned exhibitions, including "Daumier Sculpture: A Critical and Comparative Study," for which she also authored a book with the same title. Ms. Wasserman's expertise on Honoré Daumier led to many accolades, including being acknowledged at the Daumier Symposium at the Musée D'Orsay in Paris in 1999. Throughout her life, Ms. Wasserman was a regular on museum boards and committees, often playing an integral role in collections development.
After her husband's death in 1986, Ms. Wasserman began teaching at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement (HILR) and was honored by the Institute by being named a Distinguished Member in 2000. She also served as a trustee of the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, Brandeis' Rose Art Museum, and on Harvard's Committee to Visit the Fine Arts, and the Cambridge Public Art Commission. In addition to being a scholar of art, Ms. Wasserman was also passionate about women's rights, and was instrumental in leading the fight for women's right to birth control and in helping launch Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts.
Jeanne Wasserman died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 21, 2006.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Ms. Wasserman's personal papers are organized in 6 series based on subject matter. Arrangement is alphabetical using Ms. Wasserman's ascribed folder titles, except for the series titled "Teaching." The items in this series have been arranged chronologically. In the "Boards and Committees" series, items are filed alphabetically by name of institution/committee. Within those groupings, they are filed chronologically, as organized by Ms. Wasserman. Series VI. is closed to research. Photocopies of clippings are available in their original locations.

Scope and Content:

Jeanne Wasserman's personal papers contain a broad range of materials. There is curatorial and exhibition material, both from her time at the Fogg, and from exhibitions curated for other venues and institutions, including MIT and Radcliffe. There is also a significant amount of teaching papers from her time at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. This teaching material also includes notes from students, and Ms. Wasserman's critiques of how her own lectures were received. While her writings include material for smaller articles published, the bulk of the series concerns the translation from French to English that she worked on with Mira Jacob of Odilon Redon's "To Myself."
As Ms. Wasserman was heavily involved with the arts scene in and around the Boston area, there is a large amount of material from the boards and committees on which she served, as well as photographs and slides of her personal art collection, items related to her travels, the redecoration of her home, and a small amount of family vacation slides. The bulk of the material dates from c. 1960-2004.
Items have been placed in acid-free folders. Folder titles that were ascribed by Ms. Wasserman have been kept. If folders had no titles, one was assigned by the archivist, and put in brackets [ ] to denote this distinction. Collections of index cards have been moved from metal boxes to appropriately-sized, acid-free archival boxes. Duplicate materials were removed and discarded. Originally, the collection contained a number of 3-ring binders. Materials were removed from these binders for their continued protection. Slides have been housed in archival viewing sheets, both for ease of access and preservation concerns. A small amount of oversized items have been placed in size-appropriate cabinets.
The papers also consisted of a significant number of newspaper clippings and magazine articles interfiled throughout the collection. These items were handled in the following manner: all clippings were copied and the copies were placed in the original folder. If the clipping was from a major newspaper, the original clipping was then discarded; if the clipping itself had exhibition, publication, or research value, it was moved to a "clippings folder" and closed to research. This approach mitigated any further damage from the acidity of the paper, but retained items that could be of potential value. The folders containing the clippings are filed in Series VI. Entire magazines were not retained. Relevant articles, along with the magazines' cover and index were removed from the magazine and filed in the magazine's orginal location.
Exhibition catalogues were handled similarly. Each catalogue was researched to ascertain how many copies were publicly available. Catalogues that could easily be accessed elswehere had their front covers and tables of contents removed and retained in the Wasserman Collection. The bulk of the catalogue was then discarded. Catalogues that were rare were retained in their entirety.

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