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In Memoriam: Mansfield Bascom

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Photos courtesy of the Wharton Esherick Museum

Wharton Esherick Museum co-founder dies at 96.

Back in 1960, when Mansfield Bascom met Wharton Esherick, he couldn’t have known that he’d spend the next 60 years preserving and honoring the famous architect’s work. In 1972, Bascom co-founded the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern. It occupies the hilltop home and studio of Esherick, one of the leaders of the American Studio Craft Movement. Bascom died peacefully on Oct. 26 at age 96. He served as its director and curator, among other capacities.

An architect and structural engineer, Bascom became Esherick’s son-in-law when he married his daughter Ruth. His dedication to Esherick’s work resulted in numerous accolades for the museum, including its recognition as a National Historic Landmark for Architecture. Bascom also wrote the 2010 biography Wharton Esherick: The Journey of a Creative Mind.

Julie Siglin, the museum’s executive director, remembers Bascom as an indefatigable advocate of Esherick’s work. “Bob was fiercely protective of the museum and never stopped thinking about its future,” Siglin says. “He didn’t bother with plans for the coming year— he planned for the next 100 years. Even our last conversation in his final days started with his thoughts on a museum facilities project.”

The museum’s former executive director notes that Bascom’s contributions furthered Esherick’s legacy and the field of architecture. “Bob had a close personal relationship with Esherick, and I learned much about the personality of the man from [him],” says Robert Leonard. “The museum was a labor of love for Bob—in the truest and deepest sense.”