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Editorial: Ending a paper chase / Frick descendants won't challenge a compromise

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

It couldn't have been easy for Arabella Dane, a trustee of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation and a director of the Frick Art & Historical Center, to forgo an appeal of a judge's order that the Frick archives must be split between New York and Pittsburgh. The archive consists of photos, letters, film and 19th century memorabilia.

Mrs. Dane and her sister, Martha Frick Symington Sanger, did their best in an effort to honor the intentions of their great-aunt Helen Clay Frick and protect the civic interests of Pittsburgh. It was an admirable effort. The name "Frick" is synonymous with Pittsburgh and the rise of the steel industry here, as even Henry Clay Frick's detractors acknowledge.

In March 2000 Mrs. Dane and Mrs. Sanger filed suit to prevent the Frick foundation from moving the entire archives to New York City. They also protested the subsequent agreement -- since approved by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lee Mazur -- to split the archives. They were joined in that legal fight by Edward Weidlein, a former Frick Foundation trustee and former Frick Art & Historical Center director.

Now Mrs. Dane, Mrs. Sanger and Mr. Weidlein have decided that enough is enough. They will not appeal Judge Mazur's ruling. The goal now should be to make sure the interests of southwestern Pennsylvania are protected in the disposition of the archives.

Although all of the material, under the terms of the agreement, initially will be shipped to New York City, where experts from the University of Pittsburgh will sift through it, organizing it and identifying as much of it as they can. The university has stressed that it would keep staff there as long as it takes to go through the collection on a folder-by-folder, item-by-item basis.

It also should be noted that Pitt archivists will collaborate with The Frick Collection in New York and digitize the archive so that historians and researchers around the world will be able to use the material. As an additional safeguard, officials said that in the cases where there are tough calls about where material will be sent, a third party will be brought in.

Few situations of these kinds are resolved to the complete satisfaction of both sides. In trying to keep the Frick materials here, Mrs. Dane and Mrs. Sanger fought the good fight. Now it falls to the University of Pittsburgh to make sure the terms of the truce are faithfully observed.



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