Belle da Costa Greene and the Women of the Morgan

Erica Cialella, Belle da Costa Green Curatorial Fellow, and Philip Palmer, Robert H. Taylor Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, discuss Belle da Costa Greene’s enduring legacy and their ongoing research on her work as the director of the Morgan Library & Museum.

Belle da Costa Greene (1879–1950) began working as J. Pierpont Morgan’s librarian in 1905. After Morgan’s death in 1913, Greene maintained a similar role as the institution’s first director, opening the private treasure-house to the public in 1924. Her professional correspondence, catalogued only recently, offers new insight into how Greene maneuvered in a world of books and manuscripts dominated by men.

Greene and the women she hired were respected and widely regarded as experts in their field. Above all, these women of the Morgan were ambitious, committed to the value of their work, and well attuned to their boss’s high expectations. Greene was not only a director but also a mentor and friend. Her story and legacy will be the subject of a major exhibition in 2024 to mark the Morgan’s centenary as a public institution.

Explore the exhibition.

Video by SandenWolff.