Category Archives: Performing Arts Collections

Discussion | The Art and Craft of Stage Design

woman standing in front of artwork

Tony Award Winning Stage Designer Christine Jones

Thursday, October 25, 2018, 6:00 PM9:00 PM
203 Butler Library 

In conjunction with the exhibition “Florenz Ziegeld & Joseph Urban: Transforming Broadway,” Professor Arnold Aronson (School of the Arts) will discuss the legacy and contemporary relevance of Joseph Urban with Tony Award Winning Stage Designer Christine Jones (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

Christine Jones, 2018 Tony Award winner for Scenic Design for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One & Two, 2010 Tony Award winner for American Idiot, and designer of numerous other productions including the recent Las-Vegas themed Rigoletto for the Metropolitan Opera. Arnold Aronson, Professor of Theatre in Columbia’s School of the Arts, is a theatre historian with specializations in scenography and avant-garde theatre.He has been at Columbia since 1991.

This event is co-sponsored by the School of the Arts. RSVP is required.

Newly available RBML collections – September 2018

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections newly opened by RBML archivists.

A large addition to the New York Clearinghouse records was processed,
and the finding aid substantially improved: “New York Clearing House Association (now The Clearing House Association) was founded in 1853 as the first banking clearing house
in the United States. The records include amicus briefs, constitutions
and amendments, letter books, meeting minutes, financial ledgers and
statements, photographs, publications, and reports. ”

The finding aid for the Nicholas Murray Butler papers has been
encoded, with over 33,000 names of correspondents listed.

Columbia University Cuneiform Collection
“The collection consists of 625 cuneiform tablets (dating from circa
3100-539 BCE), and some ancient clay objects. Accompanying these are
some twentieth century casts, and a collection of catalogs of the
collection, articles about various parts, especially Plimpton 322, and
correspondence about the tablets, including a number of letters,
mostly from Edgar J. Banks, to George A. Plimpton, and others about
tablets now in the Columbia collection.”

A. J. A. Symons papers
“A small group of materials, chiefly consisting of English writer and
bibliographer A. J. A. Symons’ correspondence and records related to
the First Edition Club, which Symons founded in 1922. Stuart B.
Schimmel collected the materials.”

Susan Orlean papers
“This collection documents Orlean’s career as a writer and a
journalist, and also includes some personal materials and school
papers. The collection includes address books, appointment books,
audio recordings, clippings, computer files, contracts,
correspondence, drafts, interviews, notes, notebooks, photographs,
proofs, publications, research materials, school records, and video
recordings. ” Continue reading

Exhibition | Florenz Ziegfeld & Joseph Urban: Transforming Broadway

Starting on September 17th: come see how Florenz Ziegfeld & Joseph Urban transformed Broadway!

This exhibition from RBML’s vast Joseph Urban archive, features a selection of original drawings, set models, and plans created by Urban for Florenz Ziegfeld. These included all but one of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 through 1931, the Midnight Frolics, and numerous other Broadway shows and plays, including Century Girl, Sally, Rio Rita, Smiles, Show Girl, and Show Boat.

Continue reading

What is this place? A short intro to RBML

That is the question we hear a lot at the beginning of the new academic year as students explore Butler Library and end up here, in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, aka “The Pink Palace.”

pink castle design and acronym rbml

Is there difference between a “castle” and a “palace?”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is Columbia’s principal repository for primary source collections.  The range of collections in the RBML spans more than 4,000 years and includes rare printed works, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, papyri, and Coptic ostraca; medieval and renaissance manuscripts; posters; art; comics & cartoons, and oral histories.

Forming the core of the collections: 500,000 printed books, 14 miles of manuscripts, personal papers, archives and records, and 10,000 (and counting) oral histories.

Continue reading

Events | 1918-2018: Sergei Prokofiev in New York City

Puzzling and amazing pieces that fit in Dance Theatre of Harlem exhibition

A centerpiece of our exhibition, Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Trailblazer, is a dazzling, eight foot long puzzle.

Handcrafted and painted from wood, the puzzle details the DTH’s history, Mitchell’s influence, luminaries who’ve supported the company, landmark performances and homages to ballet casts.

As puzzle maker Frank Bara notes in a video tour of the puzzle, shot a number of years ago, the puzzle celebrates the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 20th anniversary. He completed it in 1989.

Dance Theatre of Harlem puzzle.

Visitors to RBML discuss the Dance Theatre of Harlem finds in this puzzle.

Dance Theatre of Harlem puzzle

Close up with Frank Bara’s Dance Theatre of Harlem puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this short video clip, Bara also explains the many “easter eggs” contained in the puzzle, if you’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with it.

There’s still time to see the puzzle in the Wallach Gallery at the Lenfest Arts Center. The exhibition runs through March 11th. After that the puzzle goes back into careful storage at the RBML. Don’t miss your chance to see this artistry up close.

Arthur Mitchell: a trailblazing exhibition for a trailblazing leader in American Dance

These are the last few days to see the Arthur Mitchell exhibition — closes March 11th!

mitchell illustration detail of Michael D. Harris’s “Aspirations + Inspiration” (1985)

A detail of Michael D. Harris’s “Aspirations + Inspiration” (1985), from the exhibition “Arthur Miller: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer.” Credit: Arthur Mitchell Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

The highly anticipated exhibition, Arthur Mitchell: Harlem’s Ballet Trailblazer, launches January 12, 2018 with a reception at The Wallach Art Gallery at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

“I am a political activist through dance.”

Curated by Lynn Garafola, Professor Emerita of Dance, Barnard College, the exhibition celebrates the life and accomplishments Arthur Mitchell, the New York City Ballet’s first African American star, and the founder and longtime director of the Dance Theater of Harlem. Continue reading

The Depth of New Yorker Films

Written by Sarah Cassone, Processing Intern Dan Talbot Papers

MS Student, Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University

 

One thing that is striking upon processing the Dan Talbot Papers is the types of materials his company kept and the attention to detail each film was given. When I think about the functions of film distribution companies my immediate thoughts are acquiring, distributing, and publicizing. Talbot’s New Yorker Films seemed to go above and beyond what was required for such a small independent film company.  With a staff of just nine individuals (according to a quick internet search) the amount of material within the Dan Talbot Papers surrounding New Yorker Films is astounding. The collection spans over 500 boxes and includes a variety of materials from printed and audiovisual material to operations files.

 

The most surprising files I’ve found have been the reviews of each film Talbot’s company distributed. Not only does the collection contain both original newspaper clippings as well as copies but these reviews are sometimes broken down by region (for example East Coast and West Coast reviews) and sometimes even more specifically by state. I’ve never considered how much importance a film distribution company would place on film reviews. It seems a little odd to me to collect nearly everything written about the film. As a matter of practice, you would think a film company would care more about how much money the film is making rather than whether or not it is being favorably received. Perhaps it was Talbot’s own history as a former film critic (he wrote for The New York Times in the 1960 as well as The Progressive) as well as his nature as a cinephile that made him want to read and save pages upon pages of reviews.

 

I was also surprised at the detailed marketing attention some of the films in his distribution company received. While it is entirely common for film companies to put together press kits of film synopses and photographs in order to send out to the media, it is quite another to be engaging in the creation of original artwork for the films. The film Peppermint Soda, a 1977 coming of age French film, directed by Diane Kurys and distributed by New Yorker Films, features some incredibly stunning hand drawn art, from full posters and transparencies to individual prints.

The above poster and transparency for the film were created by Floc’h, a French artist who previously collaborated with director Jacques Rivette. It is likely he’d already provided his services prior to Talbot’s acquisition of the title, as Gaumont films originally had the rights to the film. Regardless, the detail in marketing and publicity for Peppermint Soda is so specific to the film’s content and genre and was clearly given a lot of time and focus after Talbot’s acquisition of the title.

 

Many files within the Dan Talbot Papers contain ads for films. These would appear in newspapers and magazines and are usually presented with quotes. They are normally stills from the film. The ads for Peppermint Soda, however, contain original 8 1/2 by 11 hand drawn black and white illustrations, based upon scenes in the film.

Some of this artwork was then set within print newspaper ads.

From my experience processing thus far, it appears that Talbot kept all the print ads to most of his films, from each publication they appeared in. The Dan Talbot Papers are not only a treasure trove of material from the independent and foreign film scene for cinephiles, researchers, and scholars alike but the collection also provides insight into the inner workings of an independent distribution company and just how far that role extends.