July 2008


Today marks the first anniversary of this blog’s first public post (well, in this hemisphere, anyway), so happy birthday to us! We’ve persevered through address changes, disappearing images, and other assorted backstage dramas, but we’re still here.

We look forward to bringing you another year of news mainly about the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable, as well as items related to performing arts archives and archivists (and those who love them). And the occasional unnecessary picture of a cat.

Image credit: Glass plate negative of Louis Wain’s ‘A Christmas catastrophe : please, sir, the rat entree has escaped and eaten the turkey.’ Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog #det1994023295/PP.

The all-new Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Performance!, the official newsletter of the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable, is now available. In addition to discussing the PAR business meeting and programs of interest at the upcoming SAA 2008 conference, this issue brings us articles from near and far (depending on how you look at things).

Doctoral candidate and fellowship holder, Kevin Kehrberg, reports on his research into Southern gospel music, mainly drawing on the collections of the Southern Appalachian Archives held by the Berea College Special Collections & Archives and the Center for Popular Music (at Middle Tennessee State University). Archive Officer and Cataloguer, Kristy Davis, details the efforts to enhance access to the fabled Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection.

As a reminder, you don’t have to be a member of the Society of American Archivists to receive the newsletter or to participate in the Performing Arts Roundtable and its discussion list. If you wish to receive future newsletters, go here to sign up either as a member (if you belong to SAA) or as a participant (non-SAA), though you may need to be a wizard (or the intimate friend of one) to make it all work.

Image credits:

(Top) Photo of the Four Tones, circa 1944. From Appalachian Music Fellowship 2007 page.

(Bottom) Stanley Jackson promotional poster for Cecil Lyle. From The Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection Picture Gallery.

It seems that the New York Public Library has been in the news quite a lot of late. Directly concerning the Library for the Performing Arts is the recent announcement that Jan Schmidt has been appointed officially as the new curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Congratulations from Ephemeral Archives and all the best of luck!

Also sure to be of interest is the upcoming exhibition of the fabulous photographs of Kenn Duncan, which is scheduled to open in the LPA’s Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery on 30 July. A small, but intriguing selection of images from the vast Kenn Duncan photograph archive already have been digitized for the NYPL Digital Gallery.

I opted for the portrait of Jerry Herman for two reasons. It seemed an apt moment to salute Mr. Herman, without whose music, current release, Wall-E, would be, well, two-dimensional. It also had been pointed out to me that somehow this blog has been singularly lacking in cat pictures to date–an omission we hope to continue to address in the coming months.

Image credit: Jerry Herman holding a cat. NYPL Digital Gallery ID #1752271

The “draft programme” for this year’s SIBMAS conference (unfortunately timed for those of us attending SAA) is now available. It sounds like a very impressive lineup and I know that many of us wish we could join them in Glasgow. But for now, we’ll just wish our friends good luck and eagerly anticipate the next SIBMAS conference to be held in a North American city (a joint venture with the Theatre Library Association). It’s now scheduled for 2012, so that should give you all plenty of time to clear your calendars.

Image credit: J.M. Barrie, from an original sketch in color by Ernest Haskell. NYPL Digital Image Gallery ID #1106781

I was only half awake when I heard this story on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ earlier today regarding the pending lawsuit between the estate of James Brown and stock photo concern, Corbis, but it does make for some entertaining reading (though the transcription has a few errors) or listening. Most interesting perhaps was to hear Corbis described as a “photo archive.” Do “archivists” think of it as being what we traditionally view as archives in the public sense? Isn’t Corbis just another shop? Albeit a very well-stocked one. On its corporate Web site, Corbis describes itself as a “creative resource.”

Be that as it may, the story also reminded me about another blog post that I had started here several months ago, but aborted mainly because it occurred at around the same time that problems first began with the media uploading platform on WordPress (an issue hopefully resolved for good now) and I was unable to insert the above image of an early performance of James Brown and the Flames (hopefully neither the Library of Congress nor the estate of James Brown will mind me doing so now).

Way back in April there were various reports in the media that an exhibition of the late singer’s memorabilia was being planned by the I. P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at South Carolina State University. At that time it had been announced that the show would open at some point during the summer, so I decided to check back on its progress. This time around, I discovered the museum’s own blog, which indicates that the exhibit will open in October 2008 (to coincide with SCSU’s homecoming week). Something else to add to your calendars!

Image credit: James Brown and the Flames during live performance, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Digital ID (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c21427 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21427

Although the memories of Anaheim are rapidly receding from my memory, I did want to mention that the American Library Association Annual Conference offered a number of meetings and programs that probably would have been of great interest to archivists who deal with performing arts collections. Naturally I couldn’t manage to attend all of them, but one that I did take in which is worth noting was a session sponsored by the ALA Public Information Office entitled, Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The program featured a fast-paced, yet deeply personal, multimedia presentation by Andy Strasberg, one of the co-authors of the recent book of the same name.

Also opening this Friday is a related exhibition, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”: 100 Years of Music, Musicians, and the National Pastime at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The show promises to draw heavily on materials from the NYPL’s Music Division and other departments, but it also will feature items from Stamberg’s own extensive personal collection. Hopefully one of our New York friends will be able to provide us with a firsthand account.

In the meantime, the rest of us can lobby TCM to broadcast Shine on Harvest Moon (1944), the Warner Brothers biopic about the relationship of Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (the lyricist of the song). I must have seen this film on television during my misspent and invalid-ish childhood, but I really only remember Dennis Morgan being Chauncey Olcott.

Image credit: White Studio key sheet of images of Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth. NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID # wwm9911_w95f0_27237

Well, you get the idea. Have a happy holiday!

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