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The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive
For some twenty years, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division curators have been speaking with Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the most celebrated dancers of the Twentieth Century, about the possibility of acquiring his collection.
So, we were thrilled, when on July 14, 2011, Mikhail Baryshnikov donated his archive to The New York Public Library. The process of acquiring a collection, even a donated one, is long and complicated. It includes: figuring out what kind of materials and how much of those materials a donor wants to give; discussing and agreeing on of rights issues; working with lawyers on the Deed of Gift, and figuring costs to preserve, process and catalog the materials.
To celebrate the Mikhail Baryshnikov donation, a small exhibit was created for an event hosted by the co-chairs of the Friends of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Anne Bass and Caroline Cronson. This event, held on November 1, 2011, was such a success that the exhibit Mikhail Baryshnikov: An Archival Preview, described in Arlene Yu's blog post, was continued from November 7, 2011 to December 3, 2011. Projected on the back wall were over a hundred digitized photographs spanning Baryshnikov's career with Baryshnikov in performance with partners including Gelsey Kirkland, Natalia Makarova, and Judith Jamison. Four video monitors screened footage from his Early Years, Ballet in America, Broadway and beyond, and Modern Dance. The clips included materials from his career when he was as young as ten years old to performances and rehearsals that include his working with such great choreographers as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Merce Cunningham, and Martha Graham.
This archive included over ten boxes of paper materials. These papers are now available for the public to see here at the Performing Arts Library. You can see the listing of what is in the collection by going to the newly created Finding Aid (PDF). There is also a blog post written by Lea Jordan, the archivist who processed this part of the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive.
The videotapes in the archive documented Mikhail Baryshnikov's multifaceted career. Once the videotapes were inventoried, the ones that were determined to be masters were sent to the Preservation Lab for preservation. As they are preserved, they will be cataloged one by one. So as the next couple years go by, those 650 videotapes will slowly become available to the public, here at the Performing Arts Library.
The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is delighted to be able to offer this important collection to the world of dancers, choreographers, scholars and fans. Please continue to visit the Library for the Performing Arts to see the papers and the videotapes as they are cataloged.