When the organizers of “A Few Well Selected Books,” the current exhibition in Magill Library, chose an 1865 photograph of the library to use in the promotion of the exhibit, they had no idea it would lead to the rediscovery of two very old plaster-caste Greek busts. This iconic photograph of the library in Alumni Hall features (from left to right) professors Thomas Chase and Paul Swift, superintendent William Wetherald, seniors James A. Chase and Allen C. Thomas, assistant professor and librarian Clement L. Smith, sophomore Samuel Collins, and president Samuel J. Gummere. Peering down from high atop the wooden bookcases are several Ancient Greek busts, including (from left to right) Socrates, Aristotle, Diana, and Cicero.
After our exhibit announcements went out, we were informed by Haverford professor Darin Hayton that the bust of Diana could be found in the faculty lounge of Hall Building. Scuffed up, embellished with magic marker, and appearing to have suffered a neck fracture, Diana has clearly been through some rough patches over the past century and a half!
A few weeks after the discovery of Diana, as librarians Christa Williford and David Conners were preparing to record an exhibit narrative with Classics professors Deborah Roberts and Bret Mulligan, Roberts revealed that she and husband professor emeritus Aryeh Kosman had another of the busts—that of Aristotle—in their home on College Avenue. Kosman reports having rescued Aristotle from a trash pile in the 1970s.
Archival photographs from 1865 to 1895 reveal an array of Ancient Greek mythological and philosophical characters to have been part of the collection, as well as a couple of Quaker luminaries and some mystery busts yet to be identified. Librarians have long wondered what had become of these venerable figures as they are not part of the extensive online inventory of college-owned art maintained by College Archivist Diana Franzusoff Peterson.
Both busts have been returned to Special Collections and now they will be undergoing restoration and repair courtesy of Haverford sculpture professor Marianne Weil and her teaching assistant Whitney Ale BMC ’08. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will provide updates on their progress and will also report on more of the missing busts which have been identified in photographs from the College Archives.