A Librarian’s Legacy

November 3, 2023

Belle da Costa Greene (1879–1950) was one of the most prominent librarians in American history. She ran the Morgan Library for forty-three years – initially as the private librarian of J. Pierpont Morgan and then his son, Jack, and later as the inaugural director of the Pierpont Morgan Library (now the Morgan Library & Museum). Not only did Greene build one of the most important collections of rare books and manuscripts in the United States, but she also transformed an exclusive private collection into a major public resource, originating the robust program of exhibitions, lectures, publications, and research services that continues today.

The Morgan Library & Museum will open a major retrospective exhibition on Belle Greene in the fall of 2024. The show’s curatorial lead, Philip S. Palmer, will speak about Greene’s storied life and career, from her roots in a predominantly Black community in Washington, D.C., to her distinguished career at the helm of one of the world’s great research libraries. Philip will preview a selection of objects appearing in the show, discuss two projects related to Belle Greene’s letters, and explore her enduring legacy as a cultural heritage executive.

Sponsored by the Richard & Barbara Bell Fund for Social Justice


Philip S. Palmer is the Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum. He holds a Ph.D. in early modern English literature from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From 2014 to 2019 he worked at UCLA’s Clark Library as a postdoctoral fellow and then as Head of Research Services, before coming to the Morgan in 2019. He is trained as a scholar of early modern English literature and book history, but his interests are wide ranging and at the Morgan have encompassed work on Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and others. At the Morgan he has curated exhibitions on Woody Guthrie, James Joyce, and The Little Prince, and is co-curator of the Morgan’s upcoming exhibition on Belle da Costa Greene.

This season was generously supported by the following friends and partners:

Categories: Art History, Art, and Design, History, Social Justice