New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 74

new church life: march/april 2017 Benade saw these tombs and temples not as an odd polytheistic religion but as illustrations of a falling Ancient Church attempting to connect with the Lord. He believed a museum could teach Academy students about ancient cultures from a New Church perspective. A shipment of antiquities and photographs purchased in Egypt arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1878 and the Academy’s museum was housed in Benade’s home. Over the next several decades, the school – and the museum – moved from place to place in Philadelphia. After the move to Bryn Athyn, the museum was housed first in Benade Hall, then on the top floor of the new library in 1912. It was largely neglected but revived in the early 1970s by a group of enthusiastic faculty led by Aubrey Cole Odhner. The size, scope and quality of the museum was dramatically altered when Glencairn and its world-class collections were gifted to the Academy in 1980. When Glencairn Museum opened in 1982, the Academy’s museum had grown from a collection of 1,000 objects to 10,000. So why did Raymond Pitcairn go on to amass his own collections? He took over supervising the building the Bryn Athyn Cathedral in 1916. The stained glass windows were to be based on New Church teachings, and he was determined to duplicate the textures and pure colors of the medieval glass he had admired in European churches. He knew he would need craftsmen with hands-on access to medieval windows and began buying medieval glass panels at auctions and from dealers in Europe and America. This collection grew to incl ude more than 260 panels and he became an art collector of international importance. His interests broadened and in addition to Christian art, he acquired art from ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome, plus Asian and Islamic cultures. A portion of the collection was on display in Cairnwood long before ground was ever broken for Glencairn, but the difficulties of exhibiting it in Cairnwood greatly influenced his desire to build a new structure – Glencairn, completed in 1939. With the generous gift of Glencairn and its contents – after the passing of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn – the Academy’s Museum was transformed almost overnight from a “cabinet of curiosities” to a museum of international importance. Its mission has remained essentially unchanged since Benade and Pitcairn founded the Academy’s original museum. It remains a museum of religion, art and history, dedicated to using art and artifacts – as inspirational expressions of human faith – to help students and visitors better understand the history of religion. 140