The New York Public Library Digitizes Over a Thousand Hours of Dance Videos from the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image

 Innovative Web Platform Features Side-By-Side Video Player, Created by NYPL Labs

The New York Public Library announced today that over a thousand videos and recordings from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division's Archive of the Recorded Moving Image have been digitized and are now managed through NYPL's Digital Collections at This web portal serves as a new delivery system for the Library's digitized dance videos, and dramatically expands and enhances public access to these materials. Funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, NYPL created a video interface for the Digital Collections that addresses the specific needs of the dance research community and features an innovative juxtaposition tool that allows users to compare multiple videos side-by-side.

"Digitizing these videos provides the public with unique and varied opportunities to utilize the Dance Division’s rich holdings, and serves as an important step forward in The Library for the Performing Arts’ efforts to enhance NYPL's Digital Collections," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleishman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "With a  team of curators, designers, technicians, and other NYPL staff, we collaborated to solve the challenges involved in modernizing such materials. Dance scholars, creative professionals, students and others now have greater ability to interact with and learn from the videos in our collections.”

The Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image contains over 24,000 dance films and tapes, and the selection of its holdings now available through the new online portal includes items that span the history of the genre, from the earliest films of the late nineteenth century -- such as Thomas Edison's hand-colored 1897 film Annabella-- to the latest HD recordings of modern artists and contemporary productions. Additional videos will be shared online as they become available.

The digitization dramatically improves access both at The Library for the Performing Arts and off-site, making it easier to find and use audio and moving image collections from the Dance Division anywhere. Visitors to The Library for the Performing Arts can now use the new web platform to search and watch recordings in the Dance Division's holdings on a computer, rather than request films and videos that must be retrieved manually and delivered by wire cables to a monitor. This project also marks the first time any videos from the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image's holdings can be viewed outside The Library for the Performing Arts.

Not only does the new online portal modernize access to the Dance Division's recordings, NYPL created tools and a juxtaposition capability for the Digital Collections website that transforms how videos can be watched and used throughout the Library's collections. Conceived by the Dance Division’s Director of the Archive of the Recorded Moving Image and the Library for the Performing Arts' Digital Curator, and executed by NYPL Labs, the new web tool gives users the ability to combine videos from multiple sources - initially NYPL's Digital Collections and YouTube - into the same workspace, and allows them to edit, annotate, and share their own “mashup” of multimedia content. Using the juxtaposition tool, researchers can easily compare two performances of the same piece, or watch a single production from two camera angles. Like many of their other projects, NYPL Labs, the Library's digital innovation unit, has released all of the code for this multi-source video player and research space under an open source license so that other software developers, libraries, and institutions can use and help improve this new research tool.

One of the stunning new collections now available freely on the Library’s public website is the Khmer Dance Project (KDP), which contains nine performances and rehearsals of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, and more than 40 related interviews from the region. Funded by a grant from the Anne Hendricks Bass Foundation, the KDP was launched in 2008 when the Center for Khmer Studies partnered with the Jerome Robbins Dance Division to interview and film the three generations of artists - including dancers, musicians and singers, as well as embroiderers and dressers - who kept dance alive during and in the wake of the Khmer Rouge regime. The KDP videos have greatly expanded upon existing knowledge and awareness of this endangered and celebrated art form. The KDP will launch in Cambodia on October 25, 2013, for UNESCO World Audiovisual Heritage Day.

Other materials now publicly available from the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image include:

Newly digitized dance videos and films available on-site at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts include:

  • Recently acquired collections, the first to be delivered as digital files, from the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Ronald K. Brown Video Archive, Merce Cunningham Archive
  • More than 60 films from the collection of Victor Jessen, including Alexandra Danilova's performance in Coppélia with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and  George Balanchine's City Ballet productions of Serenade, Symphony in C, and La Valse
  • 162 original recordings made by the Dance Division of the New York City Ballet’s Balanchine Celebration performances from 1993, and 78 recordings from the company's Festival of Jerome Robbins' Ballets in 1990. The Library’s new juxtaposition video interface now allows viewers to watch the wide and close shots of these performances simultaneously

Collaborators on this digitization effort include: The Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image, The Library for the Performing Arts Digital Curator, NYPL Labs, NYPL Technology, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division, and Special Formats Processing.

About The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world’s most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs. For more information please visit