Resources

From the Archives

Isabella Stewart Gardner's Travel Albums

The museum's role as the life’s work of Isabella Stewart Gardner is reflected in its archives, which preserve correspondence and photographs alongside music manuscripts and diaries. Isabella 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 Gardner 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.

Visit Isabella Stewart Gardner's Travel Albums online. The Travel Albums site requires Flash, opens in a new window, and is best viewed full screen. Download the latest version of Flash Player here.

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.

Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella

During her residency at the Gardner Museum, Luisa Rabbia became fascinated with photographs in Isabella Stewart Gardner's travel scrapbook that Gardner composed while traveling in China in 1883. Rabbia has used these archival photographs to construct a video of an imaginary landscape animated with her own drawings as well as other images and music. She merged two very personal Journeys, Gardner's and her own. The result is a fantastical narrative that is both contemporary and historical.

Explore Luisa Rabbia's creative process through the Travels with Isabella microsite. The microsite requires Flash, opens in a new window, and is best viewed full screen. Download the latest version of Flash Player here.