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Frick archive accord backed

N.Y. librarian defends plan to share papers

Saturday, June 30, 2001

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The chief librarian of the Frick Art Reference Library in New York yesterday defended a plan to divide the Frick family archives between the library and the University of Pittsburgh.

In some respects, moving some of the material to New York will enhance the collection, Patricia Barnett testified, as a legal battle over the collection continued in Allegheny County Orphans' Court.

Barnett said transferring the archives to New York would enable researchers to identify many of the people in the 4,500 photographs taken by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick.

"I would hope that Pittsburgh would be interested in the whole story," she testified.

For much of yesterday and Thursday, Barnett was grilled by Albert G. Feczko Jr., one of four lawyers who represent Arabella Dane and Martha Frick Symington Sanger. The two sisters are grandnieces of Helen Clay Frick.

Dane and Sanger believe their great-aunt's will makes clear that her personal papers and photographs should remain in Pittsburgh and be used to interpret the life and times of Clayton, the Frick family's Victorian estate.

Dane, a trustee of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, and Sanger, author of a 1998 book on Henry Clay Frick, are challenging the legality of an agreement signed this year by the Helen Clay Frick Foundation and Pitt.

The agreement divides the archives between the Frick Art Reference Library and the university.

"How are you going to divide a letter that talks about buying some art, the steel strike in Pittsburgh, travels to Europe and the birth of a child?" Feczko asked.

"Facsimile copies would be made," Barnett replied.

The archives chronicle Pittsburgh's industrial and labor history and Victorian life as well as Henry Clay Frick's business dealings and art-collecting habits.

Helen Clay Frick's photographs, voluminous correspondence, family letters, travel journals, diaries and scrapbooks constitute a large chunk of the material.

This spring, the Frick Art Reference Library received a $40,000 grant so that it could start cataloging its own archives, which include eight reels of 35 mm film that record the life of the Frick family as well as audiotapes of lectures and concerts, Barnett testified.

Rush Miller, head of Hillman Library and director of Pitt's library system, testified on videotape yesterday.

In December, Miller said, Pitt will move its archives to a renovated warehouse in Point Breeze.

The move, Miller said, will greatly expand the school's space for archives and digital lab and preservation equipment. Pitt employs nine full-time archivists with a payroll of $500,000.

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