Historical Photograph Collection
The Gertrude Bass Warner collection, 1903-1929.

Collection number:  PH014

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Biographical Sketch:

Gertrude Bass Warner was born May 14, 1863 in Chicago, to prosperous parents. Warner was educated at fashionable schools in Philadelphia and in Paris, where the family maintained an apartment. 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 for safety to Shanghai, 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 from 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, and also purchased images.

Following Murray’s death in 1920, Gertrude moved to Eugene to live near her son, a professor of law at the University of Oregon. For the next thirty-one years, Gertrude Bass Warner worked to build and manage a campus museum to house the collections, and to 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 kept the museum going through the Depression and through political battles on campus.

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

Scope and Contents:

The collection consists of approximately 5,500 lantern slides, many hand-tinted. Most of the images are presumed to have been taken by Mrs. Warner, or her husband and son, on their travels; some were purchased from commercial sources. Many of the images feature Shinto ceremonies, the subject of an unpublished manuscript. An important series are the 38 Ainu slides of University of Chicago anthropologist Frederick Starr (1858-1933), acquired in 1937. There is also a collection of 34 World War I recruiting posters from Britain and Canada.

Many of the slides are identified on handwritten labels, presumably by Mrs. Warner. Most can be dated only from context and comparison with her letters and travel diaries. Multiple arrangement systems have been used over the years, in conjunction with Warner’s lectures. The images are currently numbered sequentially by box. A database inventory that includes references to other numbering sequences is available.

Extent: 42 linear feet (97 containers)

Access restrictions: None.

On-line access: The Gertrude Bass Warner site is available at http://libweb.uoregon.edu/speccoll/photo/warner/index.html.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Gertrude Bass Warner Collection, PH 014-[item number], Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.

Related collections:

Additional Gertrude Bass Warner materials in Special Collections include correspondence, both personal and related to the museum; travel diaries and social calendars; financial documents related to the museum and to the Bass family trust; lecture notes and an unpublished manuscript, When East Meets West; personal effects of Murray Warner; and the Warner Library. Materials are currently located in multiple collections in the Manuscripts and University Archives collections, particularly the archives of the Museum of Art. The Murray Warner Art collection is housed in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. Other art objects collected by the Warners were donated to the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian, and to two small museums in Shanghai.


Publication rights:

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.


Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer
Date Completed: October 2004

For a listing of some of the other digital collections or projects being undertaken by the Libraries, please visit the UO Libraries Digital Collections Home Page.

Support for this project was generously provided to the Libraries through a gift from Margaret and Thomas Hart.


Last Modified:
Comments and questions to Digital Collections Administrator
Metadata Services & Digital Projects, University of Oregon Libraries