In finding out about Henry McIhenny and his time as a curator of the Phildelphia Museum, I have also been finding out more about Fiske Kimball, its long-serving Director, who was appointed by McIhenny’s father, who apparently described him as a ‘Germanic boor’. McIlhenny half-jokingly claimed Kimball to have caused his father’s death. But he wasn’t German, although married to one. He was trained as an architect, helped establish the Institute of Fine Arts, and was appointed Director of the Philadelohia Museum in 1925, so was responsible for the installation of all those period rooms. He wrote a good description of public attitudes to curators in 1935:
To the unreflective outsider, one fears, museum work consists in guarding and perhaps dusting the objects. On a little higher plane, the curator is thought of as a man with a long beard who sits in a littered office, occasionally peering through a lens at some old curio, ultimately rendering a verdict on its great age and fabulous value. The galleries, once arranged, sink gradually into drab stagnation, in which the echoing footsteps of a rare, intruding visitor arouse the resentment of the somnolent guardian. The museum official might be forgiven if, in a moment of weariness, he wished it were actually so….