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Frequently Asked Questions About Using the Billy Rose Theatre Divison's Collections

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What will I find in the Billy Rose Theatre Division?
  2. How do I find what I’m looking for?
  3. I have found an archival collection in the Classic Catalog. How do I find out the specific content of the collection?
  4. Are all of your holdings listed in the Classic Catalog?
  5. Do I need an appointment to access your collections?
  6. How do I request the item I want?
  7. Are your collections digitized and available online?
  8. May I take photos? Make copies?
  9. What other restrictions apply to using your collections?
  10. What is the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT)?
  11. What if I have something to donate?
  12. Do you offer class or group orientations to your collections?
  13. What if I still have questions?

Answers to FAQs

  1. What will I find in the Billy Rose Theatre Division? More than 10 million items documenting drama and musical theatre, film, television, radio, and popular entertainment from the Renaissance to the present day, with special strength in American and European performance in the 19th- and 20th-centuries, including:

    • Archival collections
    • Books and periodicals
    • Clippings and reviews
    • Photographs
    • Programs
    • Scrapbooks
    • Scripts and prompt-books
    • Set, costume, and lighting designs and other production materials
    • Posters, window cards, and other visual material
    • Rare books
    • Theatre on Film and Tape Archive--please see http://www.nypl.org/about/divisions/theatre-film-and-tape-archive/access
    • ...and much more!
  2. How do I find what I’m looking for? Start in New York Public Library’s online Classic Catalog. Search by keyword, author, title, subject, or other category. You can limit your search by library location, material type, language, and date. For a guide to researching theatre at LPA and in other collections at NYPL, see “Welcome to the Theatre, to the Magic, to the Fun!”

  3. I have found an archival collection in the Classic Catalog. How do I find out the specific content of the collection? Most of our archival collections have a finding aid link in the catalog record. Follow this link to New York Public Library’s archival portal to see a detailed overview and box-by-box inventory of the collection.

  4. Are all of your holdings listed in the online catalog? No, many of the Theatre Division’s non-book holdings--including clippings, photographs, posters, programs, reviews, scrapbooks--are not cataloged online. To find some of these materials, you will need to consult our free-standing card catalog on the 3rd floor of the Library for the Performing Arts. Reference staff at the information desk on the 3rd floor and the Theatre/Dance desk on the 2nd floor can assist you in your research. Further bibliographic data for some of the scripts in our collection can also be viewed here.

  5. Do I need an appointment to access your collections? ​In general, no appointment is necessary to access our collections. However, some items may be offsite or restricted for various reasons.  If you see the status “Check w/Staff” or the message “By Appt Only” in the record, you will need to contact the division at theatre@nypl.org.

  6. How do I request the item I want? If the location of the item you wish to consult is listed as OFFSITE in the catalog, follow the “Request from Offsite Storage” link to request it. (You will need a library card for this step. You can apply for one here.) If the location given is OFFSITE Rose, you can either follow the link to request it or proceed directly to this form. Offsite requests should be made at least 48-72 hours in advance of your visit. If the location is listed in the catalog as “Performing Arts Research Collections - Theatre” and “Available,” then the item is held onsite and no advance request is required. (If you see the status “Check w/ Staff” or the message “By Appt Only” in the record, you will need to contact the division at theatre@nypl.org.) For onsite items, make your request when you visit using a paper call slip at the Print Delivery Desk on the 3rd floor of the Library for the Performing Arts.

  7. Are your collections digitized and available online? Only a small portion of the Theatre Division’s collections are digitized and available online, at digitalcollections.nypl.org. This primarily includes materials in the public domain or for which the NYPL holds copyright. We are adding new material to this site regularly. To see the majority of our holdings, you will need to visit the Library for the Performing Arts in person.

  8. May I take photos? Make copies? You are welcome to use your own digital camera (without flash or tripod) to photograph most items for your own personal research use. Some material may only be copied or scanned by Library staff and some may not be copied or scanned because of fragility or donor restrictions. If you would like high-quality reproductions for publication or other projects, the library can provide images. Please visit the Copies and Reproductions page for more information.

  9. What other restrictions apply to using your collections?Archival materials, rare books, scripts, photographs, clippings, scrapbooks, designs and other special collections materials may only be used in the 3rd floor’s Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room. Please note that this room closes 15 minutes before the main library. Special collections researchers will be asked to complete a registration form (see sample here) that includes a list of guidelines for using collections.

  10. What is the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT)? For answers to all your questions about the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT), please see http://www.nypl.org/about/divisions/theatre-film-and-tape-archive/access.

  11. What if I have something to donate? Unfortunately, the Billy Rose Theatre Division cannot accept donations of playbills or most books and periodicals. We welcome inquiries about donating rare or unique materials that fit our collecting guidelines. For more information, please contact the Division directly at theatre@nypl.org.

  12. Do you offer class or group orientations to your collections? Yes, we welcome the chance to introduce our collections to students and other groups. If you are interested, please contact us well in advance of the date you wish to visit at theatre@nypl.org.

  13. What if I still have questions? If your question has not been answered here or on the Research Libraries’ Plan Your Research Visit page, please contact the Theatre Division directly at theatre@nypl.org.