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Dance Archives

in The Museum of Modern Art Archives

The Museum of Modern Art Archives
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497
© 1990
The Museum of Modern Art Archives
Finding aid prepared by Rona Roob and Rachel Wild, May 21, 1990.

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). Department of Theatre Arts
Title: Dance Archives
Inclusive Dates: 1940-1949
Quantity: 1.5 linear feet
4 boxes


This record group [1.5 linear ft.] consists of documentation produced and assembled from 1940 until 1949 by the staff of the Dance Archives. Included are a variety of record types: correspondence, photographs, lists, clippings, memos, press releases, checklists, printed matter, notes, reports, and a typed mss.
The original order of the records made access difficult. For instance, according to an inventory found with the materials, one would find complimentary correspondence under `P' for "Pats on Back". In addition, the list did not follow the sequence of folders.
A list of the original order is located with the finding aid preceding folder I.1
There appear to be items missing: the original inventory referred to folders not found in these records; and a notation on the last box processed read, "Dance Archives De-L... NB last box found 12/78." During the late 1970's and early eighties, the Museum Library, then the custodian of these items, moved locations three times and these boxes must have been lost.
Selected noteworthy correspondents include: Eugene Berman, Robert Edmond Jones, Salvador Dali (1 item), Lilian Gish (1 item), Arch Lauterer, Marc Chagall (1 item), and Lee Simonson.
Titles in quotation marks refer to original file folder labels.
The Papers are organized into three Series:
Series I. Department Records, arranged alphabetically
Series II. Exhibitions, arranged chronologically
Series III. Dance Index Publication

Historical Note

The Dance Archives, founded by Lincoln Kirstein, was established as a branch of the Museum's Library in October 1939 to provide a specialized research collection for the study of contemporary dance. The original collection of books, prints, photographs, slides, films and other dance/theatre related items were donated to the Museum from the extensive collections of Lincoln Kirstein, Gordon Craig, and Fred King.

Paul Magriel was the Dance Archives' first librarian. George Amberg took over this position after Magriel left the Museum in 1942 to join the armed forces. In 1944-45 the Dance Archives was regarded as a separate curatorial department, the Department of Dance and Theatre Desgin, with Amberg as its curator. At this time, an advisory committee to the department was established. Lincoln Kirstein, George Freedley (NY Public Library), Rosamond Gilder (Theatre Arts Monthly), Arch Lauterer, John Martin (NY Times), A. Hyatt Mayor (Metropolitan Museum of Art), and May Seymour (Museum of the City of NY) were among its members.

The department was responsible for updating and expanding the study collection, for curating exhibitions held at the Museum and those organized by the Department of Circulating Exhibitions. Some of these exhibitions include: Anna Pavlova Memorial Exhibition, Isadora Duncan: Drawings, Photographs, Memorabilia, Modern American Dance, From Sketch to Stage, The Theatre of Eugene Berman, World of Illusion: Elements of Stage Design, and Stage Design by Robert Edmond Jones.

The original gift of books from Lincoln Kirstein to the Dance Archives included historical dance documentation outside the contemporary focus of the collection. In Fall 1946, these items (ca. 250 books) were transferred to Harvard University.

The Department of Dance and Theatre Design was later referred to as the Department of Theatre Arts. By 1947-48, George Amberg's title became theatre arts consultant under the Library. In Spring 1948 George Amberg resigned and in July the Dance Archives was changed to its former status as a division of the Library due to the Museum's rising operating costs.


Access Restrictions

The records are open for research and contain no restricted materials.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dance Archives are the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the library catalog of The Museum of Modern Art. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Kirstein, Lincoln, 1907-1996 -- Archives
Modern dance -- History -- Sources
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Dance Archives -- Archives
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Department of Theatre Arts -- Archives
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) -- Exhibitions -- Archives
Performance art -- History -- Sources
Document Types:

Related Collections at MoMA and Elsewhere

Within the Museum Archives, see also the Department of Circulating Exhibitions records and the Registrar exhibition files, "M.C. Acquisitions/Theatre Arts" files (6 folders); object files in the Department of Drawings may also be relevant. Some Museum Dance Archives material was transferred to New York Public's Performing Arts Library (now at Lincoln Center).

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Dance Archives, [series.folder]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Additional Descriptive Data

Explanation of Abbreviations

ALS is an Autographed Letter Signed.
TLS is a Typed Letter Signed.
TL stands for Typed Letter.
MoMA is The Museum of Modern Art.
n.d. stands for no date.
re: stands for regarding.

Container List

Series I. Departmental Matters

20 folders; Arranged alphabetically by title

Folder Title Date
I.1 "Acquisitions (Study Collection) (Accessions)"

Incl. 1 TLS Leo Ziemssen Moll-Alfred H. Barr (AHB) (1940)
1 ALS Lee Simonson-George Amberg (1946)

View PDF of folder I.1

I.2 "Amer. Dance Committee"

Incl. clippings and Museum announcement, re: An evening on American dance

View PDF of folder I.2

I.3 American Minstrel tradition

Acquisition of American minstrel collection mentioned in "The Dance Archives."
The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art. 8(3): 3-11
Incl. typed mss. "minstrel tradition" with lists of objects

View PDF of folder I.3

I.4 "Circulating [Exhibitions]"


I.5 Correspondence

1 TL (carbon) MW-NY Public Library (1948) re: fate of Theatre Arts Collection
Théatre National de Belgique
2 ALS Mstislav Dobujinsky-Amberg (1946)

ca. 1946-49
I.6 Correspondence and departmental report

1944 dept. report
2 TLS Amberg-L. Kirstein (1946)

ca. 1944-46
I.7 Correspondence - René d'Harnoncourt

"Curatorial- d'Harnoncourt"
Incl. memos chron. arranged
Partial dept. report
Draft re: Esthetic Research Museum dept

I.8 "[Dance] Advisory Committee [Minutes]" 1944
I.9 "Dance Archives (abroad)"

Incl. corresp: London Archives of the Dance
Les Archives Internationales de la Danse

View PDF of folder I.9

I.10 Educational Theatre

Labeled "Miss Weber"
Incl. diagrams and brochures re: educational theatre program

ca. 1946
I.11 "Exhibitions and Publications"


I.12 "Fund-Raising"

Incl. text; form letter

ca. 1948
I.13 "Gifts"

Incl. donor corresp

ca. 1947-48
I.14 "Kirstein - Foundation of Dance Archives"

Incl. advisory and honorary committee member list
Lists of lectures
Possible acquisition list
Departmental outline ("Direction")
News articles

View PDF of folder I.14

I.15 "Publicity"

Newmeyer/Chamberlain memos re: publicity to Amberg

I.16 "Registrar-Dudley-Registrar"

Incl. memos
Collection pieces recorded as extended loans
Acq. list

ca. 1947-48
I.17 "[registrar] receipts" 1940
I.18 Study collection reproduction descriptions

Label text for objects in collection

ca. 1942
I.19 "Theater Arts [departmental reports]"

Incl. memos, drafts, departmental reports and budgets


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Series II. Exhibitions

24 folders; Exhibitions proposed and realized, arranged in chronological order.

Folder Title Date
II.20 "Dance Archives Exhibitions (Press releases, clippings)"

Lists and printed matter from several exhibitions
Incl. 1 poster
Press Releases
Partial list of objects

II.21.a Art in Progress: 15th Anniversary Exhibition: "Art in Progress"

MoMA Exh. # 258d, May 24-September 17, 1944
Loan correspondence, alphabetically arranged
Incl. 1 AL Salvador Dali-George Amberg n.d.
1 ALS André Masson-George Amberg
1 ALS Kurt Seligmann-George Amberg
1 ALS Sergei Soudeikine-George Amberg (1944)

View PDF of folder II.21.a

II.21.b Art in Progress: 15th Anniversary Exhibition: "Art in Progress 1944"

Incl. loan receipts
1 TLS Stephen C. Clark-George Amberg (1944)

View PDF of folder II.21.b

II.22 "Dance in America"

C/E show which travelled to 14 cities, 1945-46
Incl. memos, correspondence, text, lists, notes, installation photos
Incl. many TLS Maurice Seymour-George Amberg (1945)
Many TLS Victor Jessen-George Amberg (1945)

II.23.a Stage Design by Robert Edmond Jones: "Robert Edmond Jones (First Exhibition Permanent Gallery) April 10, 1945"

MoMA Exh. #285, April 11-June 24, 1945
Incl. loan receipts, wall label text, drafts, checklist, lists, notes
1 ALS Robert Edmond Jones-George Amberg (1945)

II.23.b Stage Design by Robert Edmond Jones: "Robert Edmond Jones April 10-June 29, 1945 Permanent Gallery"

Incl. press release draft, invitation, loan correspondence

Incl. many ALS Robert Edmond Jones-George Amberg:
1 TLS Lillian Gish-George Amberg
1 TLS Lee Simonson-George Amberg (1945)

II.24 Stage Designs of Joan Junyer

"Joan Junyer." MoMA Exh. #292, July 10-September 17, 1945
Incl. memos, press release, loan receipts, notes, some corresp. (in Spanish), wall label text, photos, some printed items from former exhs featuring Junyer

View PDF of folder II.24

II.25 Costume Carnival

MoMA Exh. #296, September 19-November 25, 1945
Incl. installation photos, press release, checklist, text, some corresp., memos

ca. 1945
II.26 "Graphic Snapshots"

Proposed exhibition. Incl. corresp: Dolbin, B.F.
Sattler, Daniel Webster

ca. 1945
II.27 Marc Chagall

MoMA exh. 316, 1946 April 9-June 23, 1946
Incl. memos, installation photos, lists, text, memos, news clipping and corresp
Incl. 1 ALS Marc Chagall-George Amberg n.d

II.28.a Scenic Design by Arch Lauterer: "Arch Lauterer-Press clippings label material"

MoMA Exh. #327, August 27-November 7, 1946
Incl. installation photos, clippings, press releases, wall label text, drafts

II.28.b Scenic Design by Arch Lauterer: "Arch Lauterer Exhibition"

Incl. memos; loan correspondence alphabetically arranged
MANY ALS Arch Lauterer-George Amberg

II.29 "Designer's Competition"

Proposed Young Scenic Designers Competition
Incl. corresp; minutes; description of competition
1 TLS Oscar Hammestein 2nd-Amberg

ca. 1946
II.30.a The Theatre of Eugene Berman: "Berman lists"

MoMA Exh. #341, January 21-March 9, 1947
Incl. catalogue: Amberg, George. The Theatre of Eugene Berman, NY: MoMA; 1947
Incl. installation photos, loan receipts, memos, lists, drafts, text, clippings, annotated Dance Index. 5(1) Jan. 1946 w/inscription "Berman's Notes!" on top.
Handwritten list by Berman

II.30.b The Theatre of Eugene Berman: "Berman"

Incl. memos, loan correspondence alphabetically arranged
MANY ALS Eugene Berman-George Amberg
1 ALS Mrs. Reredon Havemeyer-George Amberg
2 TLS Edward James-George Amberg
1 ALS John Yeon-George Amberg
1 ALS Lee Simonson-George Amberg (1947)

ca. 1947
II.31 Boris Aronson: Stage Designs and Models.

"Aronson Exhibition." MoMA Exh. #354, June 24-October 10, 1947
Incl. memos, press release, text

ca. 1947
II.32 World of Illusion: Elements of Stage Design.

"Elements of Stage Design." MoMA Exh. 360, October 14, 1947-January 4, 1948
Incl. text, corresp., photographs, lists
Incl. 2 ALS Robert Edmond Jones-George Amberg (1947)

II.33 "Ballet in England"

Proposed exhibition of English ballet stage and costume designs in collaboration with London Arts Council
Incl. proposal, correspondence, lists, and printed matter

II.34 "Czechoslovak Exhibition"

Proposed exhibition of stage design in Czechoslovakia
Incl. many photos
Printed matter i.e. opera brochures and announcements
Corresp. with Czech embassy, memo

ca. 1947
II.35 "Exter-Larionow-Gontcharova"

Incl. corresp. re: possible exhibition of work by Gontcharova and Larionov

ca. 1947
II.36 "French Theatre Design Exhib."

1 TL George Amberg (?) -Monroe Wheeler (Guranty Trust Co.)]

ca. 1947
II.37 Stage Designs for the Ballet Society.

"Ballet Society Exhibition"
MoMA Exh. # 368, January 20-April 18, 1948
Incl. correspondence, press release, wall label text, notes, loan receipts

View PDF of folder II.37

II.38a "Jones Circulating Show"

C/E version of MoMA Exh. #285, Stage Design by Robert Edmond Jones.
See folder I.23
Loan correspondence

II.39 "Italian Exhibition"

Corresp. re: proposed contemporary Italian art exhibition
Possibly MoMA Exh. # 413, Twentieth Century Italian Art, 1949 28 June-Sept. 18 (?)


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Series III. Dance Index Publication

The Dance Index, created by Lincoln Kirstein, was issued between January 1942 and Spring 1949. Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Magriel, and Baird Hastings were its first editors.

Folder Title Date
III.40 "Dance in Film ( Dance Index)"

Incl. news article, correspondence (responses), and printed matter
Organized somewhat chronologically
No organization by correspondent

III.41 "Dance in Film ( Dance Index)"

Incl. publication: Donald Windham, ed. Dance Index. v. IV. no. 5; May 1945
Also Incl.corresp, lists, etc.

ca. 1944-45
III.42 "Dance Film Library"

Incl. corresp, memos


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Box and Folder List

Box Series Folder
1 I I.1-I.19
2 II II.20-II.29
3 II II.30-II.39
4 III III.40-III.42

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