Housed in a 19th-century stone mansion on six acres in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Woodmere offers a unique museum experience that centers on the art and artists of Philadelphia. Vibrant exhibitions explore the achievements and social ideas of Philadelphia’s artists in the broader context of American art. Woodmere prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its collecting, programming, and admission policies.
The core of Woodmere’s collection is the gift of Charles Knox Smith (1845 – 1916). Born of modest means, Smith built his fortune in the mining industry, and he became a city leader and passionate art collector. In 1898, he purchased the Woodmere estate with the grand ambition of creating a museum of the fine arts immersed in the green beauty of Chestnut Hill. He expanded and transformed his home into a showcase for his art collection as a gift to the people of Philadelphia. Smith focused much of his collecting on Philadelphia’s artists, but his Hudson River paintings remain on view as the best in Philadelphia to this day. For almost forty years up to 1978, the artist Edith Emerson served as Woodmere’s director, and she established a focus on women artists, especially collecting those in the circle of her life partner, Violet Oakley.
Throughout the year, Woodmere offers family events, tours, gallery talks, lectures, panel discussions, studio art classes, film, and music performances. Woodmere offers the experience of art and nature together with a growing collection of sculpture installations across its six green acres. Complemented by an interactive map, WOW, Woodmere’s Outdoor Wonder, brings together monumental outdoor sculpture, horticulture, environmental conservation, and education.
Woodmere is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction held by only approximately three percent of museums nationwide. On the National Register of Historic Places, Woodmere is designated a significant structure that contributes to the historic character of the Chestnut Hill Historic District.
Woodmere values and celebrates the unique attributes that make each member of its community an individual.
Our strength lies in the DIVERSITY of life experiences that contribute to all Museum activities. Woodmere seeks to create diversity of participation in public-facing programs, such as exhibitions and education programs, as well as in operations and policy-driven matters.
From our diversity, Woodmere seeks to create a culture of INCLUSION, actively breaking down barriers and cultivating the participation of diverse voices. Inclusion drives the excellence of all outcomes. Woodmere recognizes that some individuals face barriers and others are advantaged. Woodmere embraces the principle of EQUITY and seeks to correct the historic inequities that exist in society and are embedded in the Museum, as in all institutions.
Woodmere is committed to ACCESSIBILITY in its admission policy: free to students, discounted for seniors, and free to all visitors on every Sunday. Woodmere strives to be an institution in which all members, partners, staff, trustees, and key stakeholders reflect and place value on core values pertaining to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Partnership In Land
Woodmere’s founder, Charles Knox Smith, found deep spiritual meaning in the beauty and continuous cycles of nature. He acquired large, impressive paintings from the leading landscape artists of his day, and we count these among the great treasures of Woodmere’s collection. Smith, the artists he collected, and the mainstream of European-American society believed that the vast landscape of the continent was theirs to settle. The art in the Parlor Gallery was made at a time when Native Americans were being forcibly displaced, and they do not appear in these paintings.
Today, Woodmere recognizes the Lenape people as the original inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and we actively support our Lenape sisters and brothers, who continue to live across the region. Together, we seek to be stewards of the land, water, and sky of Lenapehokink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape people.
May this partnership heal the past, give direction to the present, and brighten the future.
Lenápe Treaty of Renewed Friendship
On May 26, 2023, Woodmere signed the Lenápe Treaty of Renewed Friendship during a special program hosted by Adam Waterbear DePaul, Storykeeper of the Lenápe Nation of Pennsylvania, and Shelly DePaul, Clan Mother and Language Director of the Lenápe Nation of Pennsylvania. This non-binding document acknowledges the Lenape Indian tribe as the original inhabitants of Eastern Pennsylvania, the indigenous stewards of their homeland, and the spiritual keepers of the Delaware River.
Woodmere staff, including William R. Valerio, Ph.D., The Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO, along with program participants, gave their support and became signers of the Treaty.