Location: The Rosenbach Museum and Library is a charming house-museum located in Philadelphia right off of Rittenhouse Square at 2008-2010 Delancey Place. From Suburban Station, the museum is an easy walk south down 18th Street and through the lovely Rittenhouse Square, where you’re sure to see a myriad of characters: from businessmen walking their dogs to guitar-playing hipsters and everyone in between. From Rittenhouse Square the Rosenbach is less than five minutes south on Delancey place in two beautiful old brownstones between 20th Street and 21st Street. The museum has just committed to a merger with the Free Library of Philadelphia, though no plans to move the contents are set in the near future.
The Rosenbach Museum and Library ($) is open year-round (except National Holidays) Tuesday-Sunday. Hours vary by the day: Tuesdays and Fridays are noon-5pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays are noon-8pm, and weekend hours are noon-6pm. If you’re interested in doing research, the museum schedules Research Hours Wednesday-Friday by appointment. For more information, email email@example.com or call 215-732-1600 to speak with Visitor Services. Find the Rosenbach online at www.rosenbach.org.
Frame of Reference: The Rosenbach Museum and Library is the former residence of brothers Philip and A.S.W. “Doc” Rosenbach, the country’s preeminent collectors and dealers of rare books and manuscripts for the first half of the 20th Century. The museum was established in 1954 to house their collection shortly after “Doc” Rosenbach’s passing in 1952. In April of 2013, it was announced that the Rosenbach intended to merge with the Free Library of Philadelphia, creating the nation’s preeminent rare book collection. Maurice Sendak, the children’s author most famous for Where the Wild Things Are, was first drawn to the Rosenbach in the 1960s and soon after decided to donate his entire collection to the museum, as he “liked the atmosphere and content” the Rosenbach offered. He served as an active member of the Board of Directors through the 1970s and as an honorary board member until his death in May of 2012. The Rosenbach’s Sendak Gallery, downstairs across from the reception desk, offers varying displays focused on different aspects of Sendak’s life and literary works.
Significance: The Rosenbach brothers themselves collected hundreds of noteworthy books as well as many artifacts and pieces of art up until their deaths in the 1950s. Maurice Sendak, the beloved children’s author and illustrator, began his writing and illustrating career in the 1940s but gained international acclaim with the publication of his bestselling children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. He went on to publish many classics such as Chicken Soup with Rice, Bumble-Ardy, and In the Night Kitchen. He also designed the sets for Houston Grand Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker, among others. In the time before his death Sendak appeared twice on the popular Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, in which Stephen Colbert interviewed him on various topics. Because of these interviews, Colbert was subsequently asked to display some of his materials, such as his book I am a Pole and So Can You and his censored copy of In the Night Kitchen at the Rosenbach.
About the Site: The Rosenbachs moved in to 2010 Delancey Place just a few years before they passed away. Originally, they lived a few houses down the block (their original residence is still a private dwelling). The current museum setting occupies two houses: 2010 Delancey Place, where the brothers lived, serves as the museum itself. The display rooms, which consist of the libraries on the second floor and the entire first floor, are furnished and organized largely the same as when the Rosenbachs lived there, with the notable exception of Marianne Moore’s living room, which occupies a room on the second floor. Large bookcases and a central display case show off Doc Rosenbach’s impressive book collection on the second floor, while downstairs boasts beautiful antique china and an array of portraits including those of the Gratz family and other influential Philadelphians. 2008 Delancey Place serves as the museum’s offices and administration as well as housing the visitor’s desk, bathrooms, cloakroom, and gift shop. The Maurice Sendak Gallery is also located in 2008 Delancey Place.
Tips: Guided tours of the museum are given every half hour in small groups. Check the museum’s website for updates on “Hands-on Tours,” which occur most Fridays and Sundays at 3pm and focus on different authors and themes. These tours allow visitors to delve more deeply into specific literary works and see the manuscripts and books first hand with the help of a tour guide. Hands-On Tours are an additional $5 charge and early registration is recommended, as tours fill up quickly. In addition, there are several galleries that showcase other short-term Philadelphia-related and culturally relevant exhibitions. These are not part of the guided tour, but are included in admission, as is the Sendak gallery. Make sure to bring cash for admission, as any ticket price under $10, such as the student rate, cannot be charged.
Maurice Sendak and His Work:
Born: June 10, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York
Died: May 8, 2012, in Danbury, Connecticut
Educated: Art Students League of New York
Partner: Dr. Eugene Glynn, 1957-2007 (Glynn’s death)
Important Works: Kenny’s Window (1956), Nutshell Library (1962), Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life (1967), In the Night Kitchen (1970), Fantasy Sketches (1970), Seven Little Monsters (1977), Outside Over There (1981), We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993), Maurice Sendak’s Christmas Mystery (1995), Mommy? (2006), Bumble-Ardy (2011), My Brother’s Book (2013)
Interesting Bio Fact: Sendak’s appearance on the Colbert Report was what prompted Stephen Colbert to write his book I am a Pole and So Can You. At the time of Sendak’s interview, the book was simply a joke. As part of the Rosenbach’s Stephen Colbert exhibition, Colbert gave the museum his original journal in which he wrote his children’s book, a “censored” copy of Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen in which all the various pictures of genitalia were neatly cut out, and a copy of Colbert’s theoretical book Where the Wild Things Are II: Still Wildin’ Featuring Vin Diesel. Colbert and Sendak got along well during the interviews, a fact that surprised many people close to the two of them.
Further Reading: Anything written by Maurice Sendak is worth picking up no matter how old you are. If you’re an art fan, check out My Brother’s Book. Published posthumously, this story contains beautiful drawings that bear a striking resemblance to those done by renowned writer and artist William Blake—not surprising, since Blake influenced Sendak immensely. Sendak also adored Herman Melville and illustrated an edition of Melville’s novel Pierre in the mid-nineties. This rare, out-of-print edition is worth looking through if you can get a hold of a copy.
Elsewhere in the Area: Rittenhouse and the surrounding area are overflowing with things to do and see. If you’re in the mood for something a little creepy, the Mutter Museum on 22nd Street, just north of Chestnut, is a quick ten-minute walk. Check out its strange and horrifyingly fascinating collection of medical and anatomical specimens, models, and instruments. If medical instruments and deformed skulls don’t appeal, head to Walnut and Chestnut Streets for some retail therapy, meander back to Broad Street for stunning opera, electric ballet, and heart-warming musical theater at the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, or simply swing by Metropolitan Bakery for a raspberry bar and a cup of tea to enjoy on a bench in Rittenhouse Square.
Maggie Lindrooth, Temple University