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Wilma Cannon Fairbank Papers, 1993-1991

Wilma Cannon Fairbank Papers, 1993-1991

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WILMA CANNON FAIRBANK PAPERS, 1933-1991





Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Fairbank, Wilma
Title:Wilma Cannon Fairbank Papers, 1993-1991
Dates:1933/1991
Quantity:3 linear feet (6 boxes)
Abstract:The Wilma Cannon Fairbank Papers contain original correspondence with Liang Sicheng (also spelled Ssu-ch’eng) and Lin Whei-yin from the 1930s and 1940s as well as articles, interview notes, and publications by and about Liang and Lin.
Collection Number:MSS 660

Series List


SERIES I. Personal Correspondence and Writings
SERIES II. Research on Liang Sicheng
A. Research and Photography
B. Books and Articles Published by Liang Sicheng
C. Maps

Scope and Content Note

The Wilma Cannon Fairbank Papers contain original correspondence with Liang Sicheng (also spelled Ssu-ch’eng) and Lin Whei-yin from the 1930s and 1940s as well as articles, interview notes, and publications by and about Liang and Lin. This material was used in preparation for writing Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past and for editing A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. Fairbank organized her material in notebooks using tabs and post-it notes. The original order has been preserved as much as possible. The collection has been divided into two series.


Series I. Personal Correspondence and Writings consists of letters from Liang, Lin, and others and copies of three letters and stories by John and Wilma Fairbank. There are about 700 pages in total, 90 percent of which is letters sent by Liang and Lin to the Fairbanks between 1935 and 1948. According to Hu Jingcao, a documentary film maker, the other half of the correspondence, the part that had been sent to China during this period, was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. "According to the recollections of Liang Sicheng’s second wife Lin Zhu, Liang kept these letters for a long time, but after repeated raids on his home in the Cultural Revolution, he finally decided to destroy what could have been lethally disastrous evidence of intimate dealings with American imperialists."


Series II. Research on Liang Sicheng contains notes, maps, photographs, negatives, interview notes, articles, and other publications documenting Liang Sicheng’s life and work. The series also contains information about Lin Whei-yin.


Biographical Sketch

Wilma Cannon Fairbank was born on April 23, 1909, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the oldest child of Dr. Walter B. Cannon, a professor at the Harvard Medical School, and the author Cornelia James Cannon. She studied fine arts at Radcliffe Collee and was an apprentice to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera before she traveled to Beijing in 1932 to marry John King Fairbank (1907-1991).


While in China, Fairbank visited the remote countryside. There she studied Buddhist cave temples, ancient stone tomb carvings, and bronze vessels, using her research to write scholarly articles on the methods and materials of early Chinese artists. Returning to the United States in 1936, she and her husband settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where John Fairbank was appointed to Harvard University’s department of history. During World War II, the Fairbanks moved to Washington, D.C., where Wilma became the first employee of the China section of the State Department’s cultural relations division, which dealt with scholarly and cultural exchange.


From 1945 to 1947, Fairbank was cultural attaché to the United States Embassy in Chongqing and later Nanjing. She and John had two daughters, Laura (born 1949) and Holly (born 1953).


In 1984 she edited Liang Sicheng's A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture. In 1995 she published Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past, a biography of a Chinese couple, Liang Sicheng (1901-1972) and Lin Whei-yin (also known as Phyllis) (1904-1955), who were groundbreaking scholars and good friends. She also authored Adventures in Retrieval in 1972 and America's Cultural Experiment in China in 1976.


John Fairbank died in 1991. Wilma Fairbank died at home on April 4, 2002.


Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Chʻien, Tuan-sheng, 1900-
Chin, Yüeh-lin, 1895-1984
Fairbank, John King, 1907-1991
Liang, Congjie
Liang, Sicheng, 1901-1972
Lin, Huiyin, 1904-1955
Lin, Zhu, 1928-
Architecture, Chinese
Maps
Photographs
Pictorial history of Chinese architecture
Beijing (China)
Cambridge (Mass.)
Korea--Seoul--Maps

Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Any viewing of the material must be first approved by Holly Fairbank and/or Laura Fairbank, donors. A brief description of the viewers' interest and intent should be sent to Holly Fairbank and/or Laura Fairbank for approval. Please contact a librarian at research@pem.org for their contact information.


Administrative Information

Copyright

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Wilma Cannon Fairbank (1909-2002) Papers, MSS 660, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.

Provenance

This material was donated by Holly and Laura Fairbank on December 18, 2005 (acc #2006.001).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, August 2017.


Related Material


Honan, William H. "Wilma Fairbank, 92, Historian of Chinese Art." The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/13/arts/wilma-fairbank-92-historian-of-chinese-art.html


Read, Benjamin L. "Hu Jingcao on Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin." The China Beat, The China Beat, 6 Dec. 2010, http://www.thechinabeat.org/?p=2958


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