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COLLECTION Identifier: SC 12

Papers concerning Agnes Mongan, 1990-1996


The collection contains Robert Sennett's correspondence, notes, newsletters, and microcassette interviews of and regarding Agnes Mongan.


  • Creation: 1990-1996

Conditions on Access:


Conditions on Use:

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Copyright: The donor has transferred any copyright held in these papers to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museums Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.


.25 linear feet (1 half file box)

This collection contains correspondence between Robert Sennett, Agnes Mongan, and potential publishers regarding Sennett's planned biography of Mongan. Included are Sennett's research materials, a black and white photograph of Mongan, and an audio recording of an interview of Mongan by Sennett, as well as a press release and printouts of catalog records from fom Harvard's online cataloging system, HOLLIS. The biography was never published.


Robert Sennett is a librarian in the Fine Arts Libary at Harvard University.

Art curator and the first woman director of a major art museum in the United States, Agnes Mongan was born on January 21, 1905 to Charles Edward Mongan, a well-to-do physician, and Elizabeth Teresa O'Brien Mongan in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her three siblings were Charles Edward Mongan (1903), John Anthony Mongan (1907), and Elizabeth Mongan (1909). Mongan attended the Cambridge School, and received her B.A. in 1927 from Bryn Mawr College, where she studied art history and English literature. From 1927-1928 she studied Italian art in Florence through the Smith College Year Abroad Program, and received her A.M. from Smith in 1929. In 1928, she began working at the Fogg Art Museum as a special student. From 1929-1937 she worked as a research assistant for Paul J. Sachs, creating a catalog of his collection of drawings. From 1937-1947, her title was Keeper of Drawings, and in 1947 she became Curator of Drawings. She was the first female curator at the Fogg, and kept the title through her retirement in 1975. From 1951-1964 she was also the Assistant Director of the Fogg, from 1964-1968 Associate Director, from 1968-1969 Acting Director, and from 1969-1971 Director. She was the first woman to direct a major art museum in the United States. From 1960-1975 she also held the title of Martin A. Ryerson Lecturer on the Fine Arts. After she retired from the position of Director in 1971, she stayed on as Curator of Drawings until her retirement from Harvard in 1975.

Her career also included stints as Acting Director of the Timken Gallery in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, and visiting professor for various institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin. Some of her major publications include the 1940 Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, The Ingres Centennial Exhibition, 1867-1967, published in 1967, One Hundred Master Drawings, presented in honor of Paul J. Sachs in 1949, and David to Corot: French Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, 1996. Agnes Mongan was the recipient of seven honorary degrees; she was honored by Harvard University in 1994 when the Agnes Mongan Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs opened at the Fogg. According to James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the University Art Museums from 1991 to 2002, "She was, in a way, not unlike the work of the artist she most admired and for whom her scholarly work is best known, the French painter and draughtsman, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Like Ingres' work, she offered us a twist on the traditional that was, in the end, more modern than old-fashioned. She was, in her tastes, habits, and courage, in no way conventional" (Harvard University Gazette, September 19, 1991). Agnes Mongan died on September 15, 1996.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This material was donated to the Harvard Art Museums by Robert Sennett in February 2010.

Processing Information:

The collection was processed in April 2010 by Andrew French with assistance from Susan von Salis.

Papers concerning Agnes Mongan (SC 12), 1990-1996: A Guide
Harvard Art Museums Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Art Museums Archives Repository

The Harvard Art Museums Archives is the official repository for institutional records and historical documents in all formats relating to the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1895 to the present. Its collections include papers of individuals and groups associated with the museums' history, including records of past exhibitions, architectural plans, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia, as well as correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and artists throughout the twentieth century. Its holdings also document the formation of the museums' collections and its mission as a teaching institution.

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