Jane Mork Gibson, 1923-2016


Jane Mork Gibson, 1923-2016

Photograph by Ann Cullen.

Photograph by Ann Cullen.

Jane Mork Gibson was a founding member of the Oliver Evans Chapter and worked diligently to promote the SIA mission concerning the industrial heritage of the Delaware Valley. She left the area to be closer to family, but she sorely missed her friends and colleagues in Philadelphia who will continue to hold her and her contributions in high regard.

Jane was a loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, colleague and friend, with a long career as a historian of Philadelphia industry and technology, died on Wednesday November 23, after a brief illness, in Atlanta, Georgia. Family members were by her side. She was 93.


Jane was born in Houston, Texas to Raymond and Blanche Mork and raised with her 2 brothers in the Boston suburbs. After high school, Jane earned a two-year business degree from Boston University and worked as a secretary at the Harvard Business School before marrying. She and her husband raised their family of 5 children in the New Jersey and Philadelphia suburbs. Jane was a member of the Christian Science Church serving as both First and Second Reader.

Her long career as a historian of Philadelphia industry and technology did not begin with the standard progression through post-secondary education. Settled in Philadelphia and with her children mostly grown, Jane resumed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. It was the early 1970s, and she was in the right place at the right time to study the material culture of technology under Thomas Hughes and David Orr. She completed her B.A. in 1976, joined the Society of Industrial Archeology (SIA) in 1977, and the following year undertook a history of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works for the Historic American Engineering Record. After earning an M.A. in American civilization from Penn, Jane authored a catalog for an exhibit on the Fairmount Water Works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her research, together with the attention the exhibit received, materially contributed to the stabilization and restoration of those great water works, which might otherwise have succumbed to neglect.

A 20-year career as a consulting historian led Jane Mork Gibson to research the history of Delaware River shipbuilding for an exhibit at the Franklin Institute; conduct wide ranging studies on Philadelphia industries; contribute to several interactive museum exhibits, including one at the Independence Maritime Museum; and assess the feasibility of creating an industrial museum at the John Grass Wood Turning Company, a remarkable survival of mechanized industry founded in 1863. She contributed chapters on Chestnut Hill and Fairmount Park to the guidebook Workshop of the World, a survey of Philadelphia’s industrial resources produced in conjunction with the 1990 SIA Annual Conference and updated these chapters in the Workshop of the World Revisited, a 2007 Annual Conference publication.

Outside Philadelphia, Jane worked with the architect John Bowie on the Hackensack Water Company in New Milford, New Jersey, and the Demuth Snuff Mill in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her research on the Kinne Water Wheel Collection at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Watertown, New York, materially contributed to its designation, in 1999, as a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Throughout her career, however, the Fairmount Water Works remained closest to her heart, inspiring her sustained efforts to publicize, preserve, and interpret this National Historic Landmark. As a consultant to the Philadelphia Water Department beginning in 1985, she was involved in the creation of an interpretative center at the water works. In 2008 she moved to Williamstown where she began work on a book about the Fairmount Water Works that will be published posthumously. Jane moved to an assisted living facility in Atlanta, Georgia this year.

Jane was a founding member of the Oliver Evans Chapter of the SIA in Philadelphia and served for five years as president (1985-1990). She served as general chairman of the 1990 SIA Annual Conference and as a director of the national SIA from 1990 to 1993. She also served on the steering committee for the 2007 SIA Annual Conference. For her sustained and diligent efforts to preserve Philadelphia’s industrial heritage, as well as for her longtime service to SIA in 2012 she received the 2012 General Tools Award, its highest honor for service to the field.

She is survived by two sons, Andrew Gibson (Williamstown, MA) and Alex Gibson (Atlanta, GA), two daughters, Janet Fricke (Ridgewood, NJ) and Ann Cullen (Atlanta, GA); eight accomplished granddaughters and two great-grandaughters. In addition to her survivors, she is predeceased by her son John who passed away in 2002.

A memorial will be held for Jane at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (http://fairmountwaterworks.org) in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, January 29, 2017. In lieu of flowers a donation can be made in Jane’s memory to the Fairmount Water Works Museum or to the Rainbow Valley Resource Network, a support network for Christian Science families and their loved ones with special needs.

Jane Mork Gibson: 2012 SIA General Tools Award Recipient,” Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter, Vol.41, No. 3, 2012, p. 6.

This notice appeared on the web site of A. S. Turner and Sons funeral home.

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