September 2008

I’m still not quite back on track with blogging, but here is an item that could serve as a follow up to an earlier “Archives as Assets” post.  The Metropolitan Opera has announced that it will be launching a new subscription service in October that will provide access to a selection of archival audio and video recordings.  You can read about it here and try out the player there.

Happy listening and contemplating!

There will be a short quiz next week.

Image credit: Lawrence Tibbett cigarette card.  NYPL Digital Gallery ID #155080


Sorry for not warning you about my vacation ahead of time.  Regular posts, as well as the interrupted series of SAA conference reports, will resume shortly.  With the Fall arts season off and running, there have been many, many items in the news worth noting and thinking about over the past few weeks.  Perhaps one of the most interesting has been the hubbub, reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, over the Friedman-Abeles photograph collection in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts from whence this image, a studio publicity portrait of Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees, comes.

I’ll leave you to think about it until the next post.

Image credit: Friedman-Abeles publicity photograph for Damn Yankees.  NYPL Digital Gallery ID # 1606701

As mentioned in the previous post, the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable held its election at the last business meeting in San Francisco.  New officers are: Peggy Alexander, UCLA, as incoming co-chair and Lisa Hooper, Western Washington University, as new steering committee member. Also appointed to become the assistant newsletter editor is Mary Gallant from the California Western School of Law, shifting the balance of power decidedly to the west.  You can find the contact information for Roundtable leadership here, so get busy contacting them with your ideas for projects, conference session proposals, and the newsletter!

Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to all of those members who volunteered to serve!  It was gratifying to see a full slate of candidates for the one-year steering committee position, but I would encourage others to consider running for one of the two-year positions next year.  Speaking from experience, it may not be so onerous an obligation as you may imagine.

Herewith the first in what probably will be a (disjointed) series of posts on the 2008 SAA Annual Meeting:

In spite of the early time slot, a capacity crowd filled the recently-relocated reading room of the library at San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design. Following the arrival of the contingent ferried over from the Hilton by co-chairs Susan Brady and Adriana Cuervo, paper ballots were distributed for the election of the two open positions on the Performing Arts Roundtable – co-chair and steering committee member (1-year term). More about the results of the election in a separate post (I’m trying to recreate the suspense here). After introductions were made and announcements given by the representative for SAA’s 2009 Program Committee and our Council Liaison, Susan solicited input and ideas from those gathered for future Roundtable projects. As noted in the last issue of the newsletter, Susan is very interested in working on an initiative in which the Roundtable would coordinate an effort to identify and contribute form and genre terms for materials documenting costume, lighting, and scenic design (most likely to the Art & Architecture Thesaurus). If you are interested in participating, please contact Susan directly.

Session proposals for next’s year’s conference were briefly discussed. Susan mentioned that she already has had preliminary conversations with Helen Adair, Associate Curator of the Performing Arts at the Harry Ransom Center, UT Austin about some possibilities. With the extra-early October 8 deadline looming, your ideas for proposals for Roundtable-sponsored programs or requests for PAR endorsement of sessions from other groups are actively sought. Read the formal call for session proposals here. Look for more discussion via the listserv (and possibly this blog) on this topic in the coming weeks. As always, feel free to contact anyone in a PAR leadership role directly with your suggestions or concerns. The business segment of the meeting came to a close as those PAR members in attendance were given time to fill out their ballots, which then were collected to be tallied.

The program portion of the meeting began with a presentation by our generous host, Kirsten Tanaka, Head Librarian / Archivist of the Museum of Performance & Design. Kirsten provided us with an informative history of the development of the museum — which has involved many shifts in location, name, and mission over the years — and its current plans for the future. Also on the bill was Joe Evans, archivist of the San Francisco Symphony, who shared with us the special challenges of setting up a brand new archives program. Records formerly held by the Museum of Performance & Design were transferred back to the Symphony recently and Joe has been hard at work trying to collect other relevant materials. At this stage, the collection better documents special events and educational programs of the Symphony, rather than its performances. Still without an actual facility, Joe came up with a uniquely Californian solution to his storage situation — records are being kept temporarily in wine storage vaults!

Following the talks, Kirsten led a tour through the museum galleries, which also included a sampling of treasures specially selected for our group, which fellow librarian, Samantha Cairo-Toby, had guarded assiduously during our meeting. The special exhibition that was running at the time, Art & Artifice: 75 Years of Design at San Francisco Ballet (which may get its own post) also was available for viewing.

Many thanks must go to our hosts and presenters, as well as to our organizers, for this wonderful opportunity to have our meeting in one of the premier performing arts collections in this country.

I’m still getting my conference notes together, but in the meantime we can all chew our collective cud (cuds?) over a recent New York Times story by Stephen Holden promoting the latest recording by performer Michael Feinstein. It’s not clear whether or not Holden is lauding Feinstein’s “archivist’s mentality” in his description of the vocalist’s career and latest projects, but buried within the piece is the news that the singer/pianist intends to donate “his ever-expanding sound archive” and “all his memorabilia and manuscripts” to what will become known as the Feinstein Foundation for the Education and Preservation of the Great American Songbook, to be located in a still-under-construction performing arts complex in Carmel, Indiana. Another press release I somehow managed to miss back in June.

Personally, I’ve always had some difficulty with the whole “Great American Songbook” construct (if it’s not a concept recognized by LC, then don’t talk to me about it!), but it did amuse me that the Wikipedia entry asserts that the acronym for this topic is GAS.

Also touching on issues relating to popular music and music archives is an article by Andrew Clark in the Guardian concerning the possible sale of the powerful Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (which the paper nevertheless persists in calling “Organisation”) — a story apparently first reported in the New York Post. It’s a story with some worrisome implications and obviously one worth keeping an eye on.

Image credit: Negative of John Vachon photograph, Closed gas station on U.S. 40, Brazil, Indiana. Library of Congress P & P Online Catalog Digital ID: (digital file from intermediary roll film) fsa 8a33325

The last notes have sounded and the 2008 Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting in San Francisco officially came to its conclusion. Rest assured that the Performing Arts Roundtable played its part. Presentations were presented, candidates elected, and other business duly conducted. Watch this space in the coming days (weeks?) for all the news as soon as I get my notes, etc. together.

Image credit: The city of San Francisco, California seen from the first street ramp of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. Nitrate negative of photograph by Dorothea Lange, April 1939. Library of Congress P&P Online Catalog Digital ID (intermediary roll film) fsa 8b33314