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Keep Frick files here, in NYC, historian urges

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

For three hours yesterday, a historian testified that the business papers of Henry Clay Frick should stay in Pittsburgh while records of his art collecting belong in New York City.

William L. Joyce, who heads the special collections division at Penn State University's library in State College, was one of five people hired to examine the Frick family archives.

"The archives are a rich and voluminous record of the family," said Joyce, an expert hired by the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, made up solely of Frick descendants.

Yesterday's testimony was part of a continuing hearing into the dispute over where the family will preserve and store its valuable archives.

Ten Frick family members want to divide the archives between the University of Pittsburgh and the Frick Art Reference Library in New York City. The foundation and Pitt signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer earlier this year.

Arabella Dane, a foundation trustee, and Martha Frick Symington Sanger, author of "Henry Clay Frick: An Intimate Portrait," oppose dividing the archives and claim that the plan violates the will of Helen Clay Frick, their great aunt.

In 1999, the foundation voted 10-1 to move the family archives to The Frick Collection in New York, a museum that also operates the Frick Art Reference Library.

The archives document the rise of industry and labor, Victorian life, Henry Clay Frick's art collecting and business dealings as well as the correspondence of Helen Clay Frick, who founded two art museums, two art libraries and two house museums.

In 1998, Joyce suggested dividing the archives based on the "dual nature" of the accomplishments of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick, noting that business occupied the coke and steel tycoon when he made his money in Pittsburgh while art-collecting was the focus of his 14 years in Manhattan, where he established his art museum.

Joyce had recommended that papers related to Clayton should stay there. The business papers of Henry Clay Frick should go to Pitt's Archives of Industrial Society and art-collecting records should go to the Frick Art Reference Library, Joyce said.

Joyce maintained that his plan would restore papers to the places where they originated and put them in the hands of people who know their history.

The Frick family archives, which are deteriorating, are stored on the second floor of a car and carriage museum at Clayton, the family's Victorian estate in Point Breeze. Helen Clay Frick directed that the house become a museum after her death. She died in 1984 at the age of 96.

A few years before she died, she directed that papers stored in different facilities in New York and Pittsburgh be sent to Clayton. Lawyers urged the Pittsburgh heiress to consolidate her papers so that after her death, courts would not deem her a resident of New York, a ruling that could have increased the taxes on her substantial estate.

"There is no organic unity to the materials that have been gathered at Clayton, owing to their multiple sources," Joyce testified.

H. Woodruff Turner, a lawyer for Dane and Sanger, questioned Joyce's recommendation, which was revised this year. Joyce now supports a plan to divide the archives between only two sites -- one in Pittsburgh and one in New York -- instead of three.

"None of the other experts suggested dividing the papers?" asked Turner.

"Offhand, I can't recall that anyone else divided the archives," replied Joyce.

On a flip chart, Turner began tracing Henry Clay Frick's art collecting and business career in an effort to show that the titan's two pursuits were intertwined.

"All the while he was amassing his fortune in Pittsburgh, he was collecting in the art world. Now tell me again what this duality is between Mr. Frick's art collection and business career?"

Joyce insisted that Turner was misinterpreting and distorting his recommendation.

Turner also cited the code of ethics for the Society of American Archivists, of which Joyce is a past president. One section of the code reads, "Because personal papers document the whole career of a person, archivists encourage donors to deposit the entire body of materials in a single archival institution."

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