The Museum’s collections, which began with just natural history in 1908, have grown tremendously over the years, fulfilling Dr. Isaiah Everhart’s vision of an interdisciplinary museum that encompasses natural history, science, and art. Expanding upon that vision, the Museum boasts a sizable anthropology collection as well.
The Founding Collection
The Museum was founded by Dr. Everhart in 1908 in part as a space to share his own taxidermied bird collection with the public. As a result, the Museum has an extensive collection of birds from the Northeastern Pennsylvania region. The natural history collection also contains mammals, rocks, fossils, minerals, plant specimens, shell, and coral. The natural history collection also contains animals, rocks, fossils, minerals, plant specimens, shell, coral and a few wet specimens. Eventually, the collection grew to include pieces of art from artists of local, national, and international renown, shaping the collection into what it is today.
The Museum’s collection developed over the course of decades. The Museum’s original collection from the early 1900s consisted of taxidermied birds and other natural history specimens. In 1920, less than 20 years after the founding of the Museum, the collection contained more than 2,300 bird specimens, 50 fish, 400 mammals, 150 reptiles, 35 amphibians, 2,100 botanical specimens, 25,000 shells, 300 fossils and 800 minerals.
In 1929, the Museum underwent a vast expansion. Instead of housing natural history, science, and art in three separate buildings, as originally planned in 1908, the Museum would gain two wings on its original structure to accommodate the added collections.
The scope of the Everhart’s collection grew even further following a donation from two Scranton residents, John Law Robertson and Rhetta Church Robertson. The Robertsons’ collection consisted of American Folk Art, African Art, and Oceanic Art. The collection was originally loaned to the Everhart in the 1930s, after which the Robertsons decided to donate a large portion of it to the Museum. This donation formally established the Everhart’s American Folk Art and African Art collections, and set in motion the Museum’s continued acquisition of these types of works.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Everhart continued to expand on established areas of its collections, such as American Folk Art and Classical paintings. Additionally, during these decades, the Everhart accepted countless donations that were shepherded through the friends and patrons of Julius Carlebach. These donations comprised the Museum’s first substantial collections of Mediterranean, Egyptian, and South American Art.
Throughout the Museum’s history, the Everhart has maintained a goal of highlighting artwork featuring the distinctive imagery of Northeastern Pennsylvania. During the 1970s, the Everhart accepted artwork depicting the coal industry by a number of artists. Notable new acquisitions included artwork by Frederic Knight, a Philadelphia-born and Scranton-raised artist. During this period the Museum broadened its collecting interests to include conceptual and contemporary artworks.
In the 1980s, the Museum continued the tradition of collecting artworks from regional artists and cultures from around the world and established a collection of Oceanic material. Although the Everhart had received its first piece of Oceanic Art in the 1940s from the collection of John Law Robertson, it was not until the 1980s that the Museum would purchase a collection of material from Papua New Guinea. The Museum continued collecting artwork that had a connection to the region’s history and its citizens in the 1990s. It was also during this time that the Museum made a major shift towards fully embracing the international art market.