A Librarian Like No Other: Belle da Costa Greene and Self-Invention

Date: 12 June 2024
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Deborah Parker - Professor of Italian, University of Virginia

Deborah Parker will chronicle the making and empowerment of a female connoisseur, curator, and library director in a world where such positions were held by men. Belle da Costa Greene (1879-1950) was Pierpont Morgan’s personal librarian (1908-13) and the first Director of the Morgan Library (1924-48). She was also the daughter of two mixed-race parents and passed for white. In the nearly 600 letters that Greene sent to art historian Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), Parker identifies Greene’s energetic pursuit of exceptional opportunities, illuminating the artistry and imaginative features of Greene’s writing—her self-invention, her vibrant responses to books and art, and her path-breaking work as a librarian. As Greene transformed a private library into a magnificent public institution, she also transformed herself: hers was a life both lived and writ large.