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HUG 4872.1010

Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955. Langdon Warner personal archive, 1914-1954: an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUG 4872.1010
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955
Title: Langdon Warner personal archive
Date(s): 1914-1954
Quantity: 6 cubic feet (14 document boxes, 2 flat boxes, 1 legal half document box, 1 half document box, 1 oversize folder )
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Langdon Warner (1881-1955) was a curator of Far Eastern Art at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum from 1923 to 1950, and was an advisor to the United States military on Far Eastern shrines and art centers in World War II. The Langdon Warner personal archive documents Warner's career as a curator, art historian, and lecturer and illustrates his roles as an authority on Oriental art and culture, especially on Japanese and Chinese art and culture. The collection provides a view of United States' relations with Asia before, during, and after World War II, as Warner worked to improve political relations through arts initiatives in the civilian and military spheres.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The Langdon Warner personal archive was donated to the Harvard University Archives by Caleb N. Warner in 1980.

Processing Information:

The Langdon Warner personal archive was processed in July 2017 by Hyunjin Cho. Additional description was provided by Sarah Demb in August 2017.
Processing included rehousing materials in the appropriate archival containers, the establishment of series and subseries hierarchy, photocopying news clippings, and the creation of this finding aid.
Warner's original folder titles were retained; any folder titles, dates, additional descriptive information, and dates supplied by the archivist appear in brackets.

Conditions Governing Access:

The Langdon Warner personal archive is open for research use with the following exceptions: some records concerning individuals, personnel and student records in particular, are closed for research for 80 years from the date of creation. Restrictions on access are noted at the folder level.

Preferred Citation:

Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955. Langdon Warner personal archive, 1914-1954. HUG 4872.1010, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

At the Harvard University Archives:

At the Houghton Library, Harvard University:

At the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University:

At the Harvard University Art Museums:

Biographical note

Langdon Warner (1881-1955) was a curator of Far Eastern Art at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum from 1923 to 1950. He graduated from Harvard in 1903 with a specialty in Buddhist art and an interest in archeology. Warner was one of the country's leading authorities on Oriental art and culture, especially Japanese and Chines art and culture.
Warner achieved much in the way of travel and research as well as technical work in several well-known museums. Before being a director of the Fogg Art Museum, he worked for a time at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology and was associated with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for several years. Widely known as an art historian and scholar, Warner also served as art director for the Golden Gate Exposition at San Francisco in 1939.
Warner's travels started in 1910 when he was awarded the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship for research in Japan. He lived in Japan for varying periods and traveled extensively in China, crossing the Gobi desert and leading expeditions to remote corners of China, Turkestan and Mongolia. While in Asia, Warner researched a variety of topics from tracing the original routes of Marco Polo to studying revolutionary conditions in Russia after World War I for the United States State Department.
In 1913, the Smithsonian Institution sent Warner to China to investigate sites for the establishment of an American school of archeology in Peking. Warner then returned to the United States and served as the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1917 to 1923. After his tenure at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Warner returned to Harvard in 1923 as a lecturer in Fine Arts and was named Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum. Warner participated in expeditions sponsored by the Fogg Art Museum to China in the 1920s, and also traveled to Japan in the 1930s on behalf of the Nelson Art Gallery (now Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) in Kansas City, Missouri, assembling a collection of 900 Japanese art objects for institution.
During World War II, Warner was credited with saving the two cities, Nara and Kyoto, from destruction, persuading the United States Army to protect monuments and material of cultural importance. Following the end of World War II, Warner was named Expert Consultant to the Arts and Monuments Division of the Civil Information and Education Section under the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in March 1946 and was sent to Tokyo. He returned to his curataorial position at the Fogg Art Museum in 1946. He retired in 1950. In recognition of his service to Japan, Warner was posthumously awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasures by the Japanese Government.
Warner married Lorraine Roosevelt (1887-1965), who was a second cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910.


The collection is arranged in nine series:

Scope and Contents

The Langdon Warner personal archive predominantly documents Warner`s academic and professional career as a curator, art historian, scholar, and museum director and illustrates his roles as an authority on Japanese and Chinese art and culture as well as Oriental art and culture, more generally.
The collection also documents United States relations with Asian relations with the United States before, during, and after World War II, and in particular with Japan as Warner worked to improve political relations through arts initiatives in both civilian and military spheres.
The Correspondence series is the largest part of the collection and chiefly contains professional correspondence to, from, and about Warner, dating from 1925 to 1954. A considerable number of letters in this series discuss the acquisition and loan of artifacts to and from the Fogg Art Museum, where Warner served as a curator of Oriental Art from 1923 to 1950. Some letters relate to insurance and invoices of artifacts. Other materials include memoranda, reports, and newspaper clippings. Much of the correspondence relates to lecture invitations from a variety of professional organizations, museums, and universities.
Warner's involvement in World War II is documented in both the American Defense, Harvard series, and the Monuments Commission series. The American Defense-Harvard series contains correspondence to Warner and lists drafted by Warner of Asian monuments and cultural treasures warranting protection in Asia during World War II. The Monuments Commission series highlights Warner's service as a special adviser to the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas and his role in the preservation of Asian monuments and artifacts. Included are preliminary lists of monuments to be preserved in Korea, China and Siam. The Buddhist Collection series contains lists of illustrations and Buddhist Gods; it is unclear how Warner used this information. The series Photographs of Okinawa documents the architecture and landscape of Okinawa, Japan during the 1940s. The black and white photographs were taken by Warner's colleague and Japanese philosopher Yanagi Muneyoshi, credited as S. Yanagi. Warner's taching materials document his teaching activities in fine arts at Harvard from 1941 to 1949. The series includes reading lists, examination questions, assignment information, and letters to Langdon Warner. The Report on the proposed American school in Peking documents Warner`s investigation of sites for the establishment of an American institute of archeology Classical studies in China.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2018 February 22.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Art, East Asian
Art -- Japan
Art -- China
Warner, Langdon, 1881-1955.
American Defense, Harvard Group.
American Council of Learned Societies.
Harvard University. Department of Fine Arts -- Faculty
Harvard University. -- Faculty
Fogg Art Museum
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Institute of Pacific Relations. American Council
Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940 : San Francisco, Calif.)
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Chavannes, Edouard, 1865-1918
Yanagi, Muneyoshi, 1889-1961
Leeper, Blanche Magurn, 1911-1992
William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art