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Out of the Box

This blog channel explores the library’s world-class and ever-growing archival holdings. We’ll examine these unique materials and the works produced by researchers consulting them. Open the box and delve into the archives with us!

Srimathi Gina: A Life Devoted to Indian Classical Dance

A photograph found loose in a binder of Indian classical dance terms and definitions; although the photograph is unmarked, the dancer is believed to be Gina Blau.One needs to only glance at the papers of Gina Blau (also known as the performer Srimathi Gina) to see that her study of Indian classical dance was truly her life's passion. From the highly detailed (and copious) writings in her many notebooks, to the intricate drawings of various hand positions—or 'mudras'—of Indian classical dance, there is a thoroughness and sense of 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Artifactual Intelligence

The Roaring 20th Century Tour t-shirt, 1988Artifacts have an interesting relationship with archives. The traditional spheres of influence for cultural institutions has been libraries for published works, archives and manuscript collections for unpublished paper and media-based materials, and museums for objects. In reality, though, all three institution types routinely are stewards for all materials and need to make judgments about their research value, access, and preservation.

As an intern at New York Public Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division this 

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View the Jerome Robbins Dance Division 2012 Annual Report

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 

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The Adagio Dancers, the Ballroom Dancers and Richard Stuart

Today, the word adagio is rarely used to describe ballroom dancing. If you told someone that you were going adagio dancing, most likely, this would draw a blank stare. Substitute the words adagio dancing with ballroom dancing, the recognition factor would increase tenfold.

The widely accepted definition of adagio is acrobatic balance with counterbalance. It is 

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A Family for My Art: Poets at the American Place Theatre

The Place

Anne Sexton and Marian SeldesIn 1963, a small not-for-profit theater called the American Place Theatre was founded in St. Clements Church, a Victorian Gothic church tucked away in Manhattan's Theater District. The theater was founded by the minister and actor Sidney Lanier, acting teacher Wynn Handman, and actor Michael Tolan. Their goal was to foster good writing for theater by providing a place where American writers, both emerging and established, could find support in writing new works for the stage. Their vision shines through the entirety of the

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Life is a Cabaret! A Study Guide to a Great American Musical

If you're interested in doing research on a musical, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has an embarrassment of riches. To find all the information we have, you may have to look in many different places. Of course, your first move should be to consult with the knowledgeable staff at the 2nd Floor Drama Desk, who'll be able to guide your research.

As a way of providing a guide to doing research in general, I'll take a case in point, one of the great musicals, which NYPL has covered from every angle; John Kander and Fred Ebb's 1966 masterpiece, Cabaret. 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Experiments in Teletype to Tele-Thought

The Experiential TypewriterAs both a psychologist and innovator, Timothy Leary was interested in the role technology played in transmitting human thoughts and feelings. Although his earlier research focused on the assessment of personality, it's not unexpected that the problem of communication would concern him after his experiences with mind-expanding drugs. For those with an interest in technological gadgets and how they affect our interaction with others, the Leary papers document some unusual and creative ideas in human communication.

His early experiments with 

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Focus On: Recent Acquisitions in the Manuscripts Division

The Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library supports historical research. Each year, individuals with all levels of library experience arrive at the Division's Reading Room to consult collections assigned the classmark, or call number, 'MssCol.' In an effort to provide a glimpse into activities of the Manuscripts Division, kindly accept this blog series 'Focus on,' as I seek to highlight recent acquisitions, research opportunities, and new publications.

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 2 - White Oak Dance Project

The cover of one of the many White Oak Dance project programs within the collection.When Baryshnikov founded the White Oak Dance Project with choreographer Mark Morris in 1990 the focus was to give choreographers a venue for developing new works, as well as creating a touring arm to present them. The project also revisited modern works from previous decades, presenting 

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The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive

Mikhail Baryshnikov signing the Library's Deed of GiftFor 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 

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The Jews of Shanghai: Uncovering the Archives and Stories

"Life was difficult in Shanghai, but infinitely better than anything they had left behind. From lower-middle-class comfort, the Tobias family was reduced to poverty but not to starvation. There was always food, always something to eat, always shelter even when the Jewish community was ghettoized shortly after Pearl Harbor. Thus even under terribly difficult conditions Moses Tobias was able to take care of his family but under the Nazis the conditions of the Jews were far worse than merely 'terribly difficult.'

"Shanghai was a multiethnic city and the 

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 1

Baryshnikov showed great promise at a young age.Recently, when friends ask me what collection I am working on and I give my answer — "The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive" — I've been receiving unexpected reactions. Everyone seems to have a Baryshnikov story. People who I know have never been to the ballet, who couldn't name another dancer if pressed, have something to say. My younger friends were not even born when he 

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Playboy: A Seductive Periodical or Champion of Sexual Liberalism?

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is intended for mature readers onlyRecognize the icon above? Perhaps you may not realize this but Playboy the publication, historically speaking, has been a leading magazine devoted to freedom of expression and human rights (to a certain extent). Founded in 1953 in Chicago by Hugh Hefner, Playboy has often been perceived as a "taboo" 

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Homage to Jean Léon Destiné

Jean Léon Destiné, master Haitian dancer, choreographer and drummer, died on January 22, 2013. The staff members of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division mourn his passing. And as the Dance Division Curator, I will truly miss him. He was also a great friend of the Dance Division. During his long career as advocate and artist for Haitian dance he donated materials to the 

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Leon Dabo’s Notebook: An Interview with Frank Goss

In 1955, the artist Leon Dabo (d. 1960) donated a thin manuscript volume to The New York Public Library. Prolific during his time, Dabo is perhaps best known as a muralist and landscape painter. Dabo also spent many years in New York, and was involved with organizing the artistic community, including a part in shaping the 1913 Armory Show. Seemingly an address book, the volume Dabo donated also contains a handful of small sketches. Looked at as a whole the pages provide information about his social life and artistic 

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History in Print: Harriet Walden and the New Yorker Records

Harriet Walden may not be a household name. But for forty years she was, as former New Yorker magazine fiction editor William Maxwell wrote in a letter bemoaning her retirement, "the pin that [kept] the wheel attached to the axle" in her role as secretary and office manager at the New Yorker magazine.

Walden joined the New Yorker in 1944, as secretary to the magazine's infamous editor and founder, Harold Ross. She was replacing her 

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Recording the Life of a Dancer

An oral history interview is a lot more than just any old conversation or sound recording. Although the definition of oral history is dynamic, it usually refers to the collecting of individual histories, according to specific ethical and methodological guidelines, and the responsible preservation and archiving of those recordings. While human history has been collected and shared orally for thousands of years, oral history as a modern organized activity is said to date only to 1948 when Allan Nevins began the now highly respected

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RHA Cylinder Collection Exhibit

The Collection and Exhibit

The Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the New York Library for the Performing Arts currently houses a collection of more than 3,000 wax and celluloid cylinders. These cylinders range from very early, non-commercial, white and brown wax cylinders, to commercial moulded black wax cylinders, to Indestructible moulded celluloid cylinders and, finally, to the later Edison Blue Amberol celluloid cylinders.

The collection is 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: Keith Haring Makes a Mind Movie

In the process of imaging digital material from the Timothy Leary papers, my eyes have scanned some curious documents, but sometimes the most intriguing files are the ones I can't read. Timothy Leary collaborated with a number of celebrities on projects during his years of freelancing. One of the celebrities that left his mark on the Leary papers is Keith Haring.

Among the box load of disks, a few are tantalizingly inscribed "Drink me" and "Love, 

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Metamorphosis of a Song: “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

I've blogged before about my joy in finding something I never knew existed in the richly varied archival holdings of the New York Public Library, but while processing the James Barton Papers, I had an epiphany of another color: finding something I've wanted to get my hands on for nearly twenty years.

Bear with me while I set the scene for this discovery with some personal history. It would be an understatement to say that I'm a fan of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner.

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