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Gertrude Bass Warner papers

Identifier: UA 022

Scope and Contents

The Gertrude Bass Warner Papers, which span the years 1879-1954, consist of papers, business records, photographs, and an unpublished manuscript all relating to her interest in Asian culture and her work promoting international understanding through art. The collection documents her family history, her involvement with organizations devoted to improving international relations with Asia, her major accomplishments, and her work at the University of Oregon. The bulk of the collection pertains to the founding of the University of Oregon Fine Art Museum and the 20 years she spent as its director. The Collection is organized into four series: personal papers, international activities, professional papers, and museum of fine art records.

The Personal Papers series is arranged into six subseries: family papers, major accomplishments, personal associations, personal correspondence, travel, and personal finances. This collection does not contain many documents relating to the years 1904-1909 when she lived in China with her second husband Murray Warner but does document her later travels to Asia for the museum. Researchers will be particularly interested in photographs and letters from Warner’s travels, written family histories, documentation of honors she received, and personal records of her financial gifts to the University of Oregon.

The International Activities series is arranged into two subseries: Asian art colleagues and activities & associations. The subseries activities & associations is arranged into four sub-subseries: associations, University of Oregon activities, professor exchanges, and collected pamphlets & newspaper clippings. Correspondence with colleagues and associations are organized alphabetically. Researchers will find correspondence with western authorities on Asian art, artists, and fellow art collectors highlighting the interest in and means of collecting Asian art in the first half of the 20th Century. Also of interest is the variety of activities that she became involved in at the University of Oregon to support students and stimulate their interest in Asian Culture.

The Professional Papers series is arranged into three subseries: speeches & presentations, writings, and professional associations. Of particular interest is a copy of her unpublished manuscript “When West Meets East” which was intended to be a social etiquette book for American travelers in Japan.

The Museum of Fine Art Records series is arranged into seven subseries: museum of fine art building, museum correspondence, museum acquisitions, museum library, library accessions, employee records, and general business records. This series contains detailed financial records for the museum from the initial fundraising until Warner’s death in 1951. Employee correspondence outlines much of the day-to-day operations at the museum and provides additional documentation for notable events and visitors.


  • Creation: 1879-1954


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Glass plate negatives and lantern slides are restricted due to the fragility of the format. All decisions regarding use will be at the discretion of the curator for visual materials.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Gertrude Bass Warner was born May 14, 1863 in Chicago, Illinois to prosperous parents. Warner was educated at fashionable schools in Philadelphia and in Paris. In 1888 she married Dr. George F. Fiske of Chicago and bore three children: Sam, George, and Clara, who died as an infant in 1893. The couple divorced, George staying with his father while Gertrude raised Sam.

At the turn of the century, Asia experienced much political and military turmoil and was forcibly influenced by European cultures. In 1904 Gertrude accompanied her journalist brother, John Foster Bass, to Japan during the Russo-Japanese war. The following year John sent her to Shanghai for safety, recommending an acquaintance with his friend Maj. Murray Warner (1869-1920). Gertrude and Murray were married in 1905 and took up residence in Shanghai until 1909.

Mrs. Warner continued her travels, exploring China, Japan, Korea and Cambodia while based in Shanghai. She was an appreciative witness to many religious and cultural traditions that were destroyed in later wars. She experienced political unrest and military conflicts that complicated her travels. She photographed as she traveled, purchased images and collected artifacts, books and photographs.

Following Murray’s death in 1920, Gertrude moved to Eugene to live near her son who was a professor of law at the University of Oregon. For the next thirty-one years, Gertrude Bass Warner worked to build a campus museum that would house the extensive collection of Asian art she brought back from her travels. In addition, Ms. Warner helped establish one of the first Asian studies departments at the University of Oregon. Assisted by Maude Kerns and Mabel Klockars Garner, Warner continued her collecting trips and managed the museum through the Great Depression and political battles on campus.

Mrs. Warner was an active supporter of the United Nations and a member of many organizations related to Asian studies and art. She was indefatigable in support of multiculturalism. Gertrude Bass Warner died in 1951 at the family home in Peterborough, NH.


11 linear feet (19 containers)

Language of Materials



Collection includes personal papers, professional papers, business records, and photographs relating to the life and career of Gertrude Bass Warner (1863-1951), the founder and director emeritus of the University of Oregon Fine Art Museum.

Arrangement note

This collection has been organized into four series: 1. Personal Papers, 2. International Activities, 3. Professional Papers, 4. Museum of Fine Art Records.

Series 1. Personal Papers is arranged in five sub-series:

1.1. Family Papers; 1.2. Personal Memberships; 1.3. Personal Correspondence; 1.4. Travel; 1.5. Personal Finances.

Series 2. International activities is arranged in five sub-series:

2.1. Asian Art Colleagues; 2.2. Activities and Associations; 2.3. University of Oregon Activities; 2.4. Professor Exchanges; 2.5. Collected pamphlets and newspaper clippings.

Series 3. Professional papers is arranged in four sub-series:

3.1. Speeches and Presentations; 3.2. Writings; 3.3. Achievements; 3.4. Professional Associations.

Series 4. Museum of Fine Art records is arranged in seven sub-series

4.1. Museum of Fine Arts Building; 4.2. Museum Correspondence; 4.3. Museum Acquisitions; 4.4. Museum Library; 4.5. Library Accessions; 4.6. Employee Correspondence; 4.7. General Business Records.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items are available online in the Gertrude Bass Warner papers, 1879-1954 in Oregon Digital.

Related Materials

Other collections relating to Gertrude Bass Warner at Special Collections and University Archives include: Gertrude Bass Warner papers, Ax 701.

General Physical Description note

19 containers

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Gertrude Bass Warner Papers
Revise Description
Finding aid prepared by staff and Amanda Steele
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA