“I have been arranging photographs in my albums all morning; I hope some day you will care to see them.” Isabella Gardner to Julia Gardner, 1884
That the Museum was the life’s work of Isabella Stewart Gardner is reflected in its archives, which preserve correspondence and photographs alongside music manuscripts and diaries. Gardner left behind a compendious visual record of her interests, including 28 travel albums, carefully collated on her journeys from 1867 until 1895, when the business of art collecting began to be the focus of her extraordinary energy.
Like many wealthy Americans in the Victorian era, Isabella traveled extensively, making journeys to Europe, Asia and the American West. The albums contain mainly commercial photographs created for the tourist market by pioneering travel photographers such as Emile Gsell in Southeast Asia and Francis Frith in Egypt. Gardner personalized some pages with her own watercolors, collected flowers, menus, and other ephemera.
Through the albums we see the link between these early travels and the later construction and installation of her museum.
This website and conservation treatment of the travel albums by the Northeast Document Conservation Center is made possible by the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation.