Planting Fields Foundation Archives

The Foundation is currently undertaking a significant project to organize and stabilize the archives. This work has been deemed a priority as the archives inform several projects currently underway.  Notable among these is the Cultural Landscape Report which will have fundamental impact on the future of the Planting Fields landscape.  Key correspondence between the landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers and supplemental contractors will inform details of the project. The Olmsted Brothers, an influential firm in the United States, was established in 1898 by brothers John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, sons of the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Their work sculpting the landscape played a major role in the development of Planting Fields as a great Gold Coast estate.

Historic photographs by Mattie Edwards Hewitt (1869–1956) and architectural drawings will be critical to informing consultants on historic precedent and will guide opportunities to restore areas of the grounds. Hewitt was a notable American photographer of architecture and landscape primarily on the East Coast. She worked with Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952) a prominent American photographer and photojournalist who was also her partner. Their documentary photographs are examples of the invaluable primary resources that the Planting Fields Foundation archives contain.

Earlier this year, a professionally trained archivist spent four days on site analyzing the contents of the collections and the organization of materials to create a report for the Foundation. This report outlines current best practices on storing, accessioning and housing of materials, along with advisement on the organization and maintenance of core content related to the Coe Family. This content includes family correspondence with well-known figures of the time, including Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), journals, photographs and home-movies, along with early 1900s architectural drawings of buildings on the grounds and account ledgers. The archives also house general institutional records that document Planting Fields’ transition from a private house to a public museum.

As part of the project, we aim to address the physical environment, including temperature and room humidity, with some rehousing of especially sensitive materials, most notably, architectural drawings and blueprints. Long term plans for digitization of these resources will best preserve them for future initiatives and will provide overall access to scholars and enthusiasts alike.