When people talk to me at dance events, they often ask a series of questions. How is the Dance Division doing? Does the Dance Division still accept materials? How does the Library store them? Preserve them? What about digitizing the videos? These can take a long time to answer, but there is one place I can point to with much of this information. That is the Jerome Robbins Dance Division's Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2012 (PDF), which is now available online.
Merce Cunningham in Letter To The World Choreography by Martha Graham Photograph by Barbara MorganMikhail Baryshnikov in Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances
The Manuscripts & Archives Division has been processing and cataloging the Dance Division's paper and manuscript backlog. As of July, 2012, 39 collections comprising 348.99 linear feet were added to the archive. To see how much has been done to process the backlog of paper archives, go to "2.3 Processing and bibliographic control."
When the materials are processed by the Manuscripts & Archives Division in the Library's facility in Long Island City, the finding aid and catalog are created, then the materials are shipped to the Dance Division. Often, the public has found the catalog record for the materials and are asking for them before the staff members can get them off the shipping carts and onto the shelves.
Materials after they are processed, conserved and cataloged with finding aids
Materials in boxes before they are processed, conserved and cataloged with finding aids
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with Artistic Director Robert Battle and Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya. Photo by Andrew Eccles
There are two other aspects to the work of the Dance Division that are unusual for libraries, namely its programs to record oral histories and video dance performance. Many people are not aware that the Dance Division makes video records of dance performances and creates audio interviews with dancers, choregraphers, and others involved in the art form. To see the list of dance companies recorded in performance last year by the Dance Division's Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image, and the list of oral histories created by Dance Division's Oral History Project go to "2.1 Collection development and notable acquisitions."
In terms of digitizing video, take a look at the section 3. "New Projects and Initiatives," which includes information about The Committee for the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Friends of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Core of Culture and grants. One grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that covers a period of 24 months is being used to develop, test, and reconfigure a system that will allow dance scholars, creative professionals, and students to more easily find and use audio and moving image collections from its Jerome Robbins Dance Division. This system will address the complex issues associated with delivering audio and moving images in a digital format, combining advanced features that facilitate discovery and display of high-quality audio and video with a sophisticated system for managing access to the content in accord with intellectual property and other applicable rights restrictions. The project will include feedback loops with identified groups from within the dance community to ensure its relevance and that the system meets needs that are specific to dance users.
The Dance Division's annual report illustrates how much is happening with the Dance Division and The New York Public Library. The enormous amount of collecting, processing, cataloging and materials shifting performed this year at the Dance Division demonstrates the Division's success with the resulting greater potential for discovery. It is not order for its own sake, but organization that facilitates even greater access for you, the public, to dance content. These acquisitions, original documentations, oral history recordings and processing projects are but a small sample of the work of the Dance Division. This renewal of our efforts to acquire important collections around the world allows the Dance Division to continue to be the world's largest and most comprehensive archive devoted to dance.