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Ted Shawn Papers, Additions Now Open for Research

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is pleased to announce that the Ted Shawn papers, Additions is now open for research. 

Ted Shawn poster

Ted Shawn poster

This material was donated to the Library in 1992 by the John Christian Estate. The first part of the collection, called the Ted Shawn papers, was processed in 2006 with some reprocessing done in 2009-2010 by Norton Owen, the Director of Preservation at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. The original collection consists primarily of correspondence, but also includes personal papers, writings, financial documents and materials about Jacob's Pillow. Because of Ted Shawn's place in dance history, this collection is frequently used by researchers and has a wealth of information about Shawn, Jacob's Pillow, and dance history.

The plot thickened in 2012, when I started at the Library and began an inventory of the Dance Division's unprocessed materials. I made a list of the collections, box titles and locations of each box. In doing so, I also opened each box to briefly check the contents in order to prioritize boxes and collections for processing. 

I found what is now the "Ted Shawn papers, Additions" boxes on our backlog list, though it was listed as the "left overs" from the Ted Shawn papers. I didn't find an inventory of the contents, but I figured the materials would be published scores, clippings, programs, and oversize items like posters separated from the other materials. Such types of materials would not have been included in manuscript collections when the collection was originally processed a decade ago. Instead, these materials would have been added to our general collections. We now keep all of that material together.

When I started to look through the boxes, I was pleasantly surprised to find original correspondence, Ted Shawn writings, choreographic notes, hand colored posters, financial records from the 1930s, and hand drawn ballet charts. I also realized that in a separate section of unprocessed material was a treasure trove of photographs and photo albums that had been separated from the collection upon acquisition. The Dance Division used to separate photos from manuscript material and make them into their own separate collections. I decided to reunite the photos with the collection and make all of this material our number one processing priority.

The volume of material I had found was rather large and needed quite a bit of organization, so I enlisted the help of intern Sophie Dougherty. Sophie organized the collection and separated duplicate programs as well as published books and scores. Once she organized the collection, we sent the collection to our Special Collections department for processing by Robyn Hjermstad, who further organized the collection and wrote the finding aid. I am thrilled to announce that the collection is now processed and available for research. 

The whole "Additions" collection has only been open for a few months but it is generating quite a lot of interest. I am encouraging researchers to especially look at the photo albums and photograph boxes. There are several early Denishawn albums with photos from the 1910s, casual snapshots, and photos of the building of Jacob's Pillow. It has been a very exciting journey to make the rest of this collection available for research.


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