John Russell Mason papers
Collection Scope and Content
The John Russell Mason collection consists of records, correspondence, photographs, and ephemeral materials. The materials range in date from 1931 to 1981. The collection covers records documenting his librarianship education at Columbia University, individual exhibits held at the University Library, and records he kept while in office at The George Washington University. The collection was donated to the University Archives of the Special Collections Department by the estate of John Russell Mason.
- Creation: 1931-1981
- Mason, John Russell (Person)
Restrictions on Access
Some records may be restricted.
Restrictions on Use
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
John Russell Mason (1900-1981) was associated with The George Washington University (GW) for most of his adult life, first as a student, then as the University Librarian and Curator of Art from 1933 to 1966.
Mason was born January 1, 1900 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was a young boy. He graduated from Washington's Roosevelt High School, and entered GW in 1918. Mason earned an B.A. in 1923, and an M.A. in 1925 both concentrating in English.
Mason began working in the library while an undergraduate and was appointed Chief Assistant in 1920. He was made Assistant Librarian following his gradation, a post he held until 1929. He decided to dedicate his career to librarianship, and enrolled in the Library School of Columbia University. Before finishing at Columbia in 1933, Mason was promoted at GW from Associate Librarian to the position of Chief Librarian the same year. In 1939, the Lisner Library was constructed and during Mason's service, the library holdings increased fourfold, including the purchase of the library of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1950.
In 1944, he was given the added responsibly of being the Curator of Art. In that capacity he arranged 176 exhibitions of works of art which ranged from the Walter P. Chrysler Collection to the annual student shows. He was instrumental in the acquisition of two full length Gilbert Stuart portraits of George Washington, a Rembrandt Peale "porthole" portrait, and the oil portraits of presidents of the University.
An accomplished organist, Mason played at numerous universality convocations and commencements for over thirty-five years. He also played for a number of Washington churches, among them Central Presbyterian Church from 1926 to 1944 as the organist. In 1951, the University honored him with an alumni achievement award, and in 1965 he was confirmed the status of Librarian and Curator of Art Emeritus. He retired officially a year later.
He was a member of the American Library Association, the Library Association of Great Britain, the District of Columbia Library Association (serving as President from 1942 to 1944), the Special Libraries Association, the American Guild of Organists, Theta Delta Chi, the Cosmos Club, and the Arts Club of Washington. In 1974, the Friends of the Libraries dedicated the John Russell Mason Room in the University Library (named Gelman Library in 1980).
He continued his life of bachelorhood at his long residence in the Arts Club of Washington until his death. John Russell Mason died February 28, 1981 in Washington, D.C. In 1983, Mason's will provided for the establishment of a $220,000 permanent endowment for the purchase of books for the Gelman Library, known as the John Russell Mason Book Fund.
N.B. This history note was written in 2005
13.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Collection consists of records, correspondence, photographs, and ephemeral materials ranging in date from 1931 to 1981. The records document John Russell Mason's librarianship education at Columbia University, individual exhibits held at the University Library, and his career at The George Washington University.
Organized in six series: Columbia Library School, American Library Association, District of Columbia Library Association, Librarian and curator of art, Library exhibits under J.R. Mason as curator, and Papers, photographs, ephemera.
The collection was donated to the University Archives by the estate of John Russell Mason.
- George Washington University--Alumni and alumnae (Organization)
- District of Columbia Library Association (Organization)
- Columbia University (Organization)
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Organization)
- American Library Association (Organization)
- George Washington University. Friends of the Libraries (Organization)
- Mason, John Russell (Person)
- Marvin, Cloyd Heck (Person)
- George Washington University (Organization)
- Guide to the John Russell Mason papers, 1931-1981
- University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
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