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About the Billy Rose Theatre Division


Third Floor

Phone: (212) 870-1639

Fully accessible to wheelchairs

The Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library is one of the largest and most comprehensive archives devoted to the theatrical arts. Encompassing dramatic performance in all its diversity, the division is an indispensable resource for artists, writers, researchers, scholars, students, and the general public. Through conservation and documentation efforts, it preserves and promotes the theatre, playing a dynamic role in the national and international theatrical communities.

The division's holdings illuminate virtually every type of performance, from street corner to stage to studio, and include drama and musical theatre, film, television, radio, and popular entertainment (circus, magic, vaudeville, puppetry).

Working in the division, a user can examine a 1767 program for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in Philadelphia, study Edwin Booth's letters to his daughter, review the working script for Orson Welles's African-American Macbeth, study costume designs from the film Anna and the King of Siam, analyze a videotape of A Chorus Line, or read scripts from current television hits.

Chronicling performances around the globe and throughout the centuries, the Billy Rose Theatre Division was formally established in 1931, following a gift to The New York Public Library of thousands of items from the estate of producer and playwright David Belasco. However, its roots date to two other important gifts: the George Becks Collection (1905) and the Robinson Locke Collection (1925). While it houses an extraordinary array of traditional reference materials, the division's strength and uniqueness lie in its unparalleled collection of theatre ephemera as well as its pioneering efforts to document theatre on videotape and film. Approximately 5 million items illuminate the art of theatre worldwide.