Proud completion of Practicum!

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I’ve always considered photographs to be among the most exciting materials to work with in a collection. As someone who is a visual learner, looking at the many photographs in the Glen Tetley Archives was a great way for me to learn the various ballets, costumes, and some performers. Many of the photographs were never credited or labeled on the verso, so I often found it to be similar to a matching game of trying to place photographs from each ballet together judging by set pieces, costumes, and Tetley’s age (if he was pictured in the photo). The photographic materials in this collection were often in danger of damage due to their original housing and haphazard placement within the boxes. After speaking with Christine about the needs and wishes of the Glen Tetley Legacy, I decided to organize the photographs alphabetically by ballets, then by companies. Other photographs of persons, Glen Tetley’s personal life, and events were organized in a separate box. Black and white photographs were filed in archival file folders. Color photographs were separated and placed in the white archival file folders. Photographs that were too large to fit in the banker boxes were placed in a larger box. Many post-it-notes were removed from the photographs, possibly from when they were used in the documentary film.

Glen Tetley performing.

Glen Tetley performing.

Among the most exciting, and valuable, items in the collection were very important costume and set design sketches. Some contain fabric swatches attached to the page which truly made the costumes come to life in my hands. Oversize costume and set designs too large for this size box were placed in one of the extra large flat storage boxes. Some of the most noteworthy sketches were signed by Rouben Ter-Arutunian who was a costume and scenic designer for dance, opera, theater and television. He worked on over 24 Broadway productions and designed the sets for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker for New York City Ballet in 1964.

Colorful costume sketches.

Colorful costume sketches.

Something that I would consider to be of great informational value for researchers studying Glen Tetley’s choreographic process would be his journals, notebooks, and datebooks. There were enough to fill a box full and varied in age and size. Any inserted materials of correspondence, photographs, and/or notes were left “as-is” within the pages. To know that Glen Tetley jotted down his ideas for ballets within these pages and traveled with these journals all over the world is a thrilling thought.

In the final hours of my practicum assignment, I spent time at the storage facility to do the finale arrangement and box numbering. Having to bring the materials back and forth from the Upper East Side storage facility all the way downtown to the Dance Notation Bureau’s offices was one of the most time-consuming and slightly frustrating parts of the work. But I can’t complain because DNB was absolutely wonderful to allow me a space to work and Christine was always by my side to haul boxes around.

At completion, there was a total of 35 boxes in the storage unit, all neatly stacked and organized to the best of my abilities in the allotted time. I was able to use many of the skills and knowledge I’d obtained at the Museum of Performance + Design and apply it to processing the Glen Tetley archival materials. I feel very proud of what I was able to accomplish and must thank the incredible staff at Dance Heritage Coalition, the Museum of Performance + Design, and the Glen Tetley Legacy for giving me these unbelievable learning experiences this summer. I also must thank my dear mother for introducing me to this beautiful art form at such a young age and supporting me every step of the way towards becoming a dance archivist.

This Fellowship has reaffirmed that my calling in life is to archive dance, in any way, shape, or form that it may need!

Me, Ailina Rose, happily showing off my hard work! Who'd have thought that grey boxes could look so beautiful?!

Ailina Rose happily showing off her hard work! Who’d have thought that grey boxes could look so beautiful?!

BEFORE and AFTER

BEFORE and AFTER

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My “Introduction” to choreographer Glen Tetley

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For my practicum, I had the extreme pleasure of getting to process the Glen Tetley Archives. I was fortunate to have support and assistance from the incredible Administrator of the Glen Tetley Legacy, Ms. Christine Dobush. At first glance, the project of re-housing the boxes in storage containing all sorts of mixed materials was a little daunting in the restricted amount of time, but I was up for the challenge. The boxes were residing at a storage unit on the Upper East Side. In order to process the boxes, Christine helped arrange for the boxes to be moved to a workspace at the Dance Notation Bureau downtown. Despite the boxes looking worn and collapsing, the materials inside were in relatively good condition. It greatly helps that the storage unit is climate controlled and safely indoors. To my great relief, no pests were observed at the facilities or in the boxes. There were originally 19 boxes in the storage and files, videos, and other materials stored at the GTL office. During the re-housing process, I attended to high-risk items first including films, videos, and photographic materials.

"BEFORE" picture of the storage unit.

“BEFORE” picture of the storage unit.

Transporting the first batch of Video and Film materials to rehouse.

Transporting the first batch of Video and Film materials to rehouse. As with many archival jobs, this practicum also included a lot of “schlepping” materials. 

In order to get the ball moving on the project, I assisted Christine with purchasing the materials needed. We used the archival supplies manufacturer Gaylord.

Just like Christmas! Boxes of new archival supplies arriving at the office.

Just like Christmas! Boxes of new archival supplies arriving at the office.

With the high-risk film and video materials, I began giving each tape/reel a unique identifying number. This number is physically present on the tapes with white tape and can be used to find that specific tape in the extensive inventory list I was creating at the same time. When videos were clearly duplicates, the set of tapes were numbered ex: 113.1, 113.2, etc to reflect their relationship to one another. Since Christine expressed that it would be most helpful to have the tapes sorted by ballet, the tapes are arranged alphabetically. Some of the reels had a vinegar small and one of the film reels had physical evidence of acetate deterioration.

In the midst of organizing the video tapes alphabetically by ballet title into the new archival boxes!

In the midst of organizing the video tapes alphabetically by ballet title into the new archival boxes!

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Most of the boxes were very varied on the types of materials they contained. They often resembled the photograph below where there were envelopes of papers in no particular order all thrown in boxes. The envelopes often contained press clippings, correspondence, production notes, photographs, and administrative papers relating to a certain performance of a Tetley ballet. For time’s sake, it was necessary to keep the grouped papers together in archival envelope and take out costume sketches and photographs to house separately. Also in these boxes were printed music score booklets and binders. Some contained handwritten notes in the margins. Some had corresponding production notes inserted into the pages. I chose to leave these inserted materials within the music scores in the hopes that they may be of use for future research. I also found one banker’s box worth of books within the collection. Some were dance related and others were fiction paperbacks. Some books contained writing, Glen Tetley Library stamps, and inserts. Again, I left these “as-is” within the books since they may gleam information about Glen Tetley’s thoughts while reading.

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While sorting through the boxes and boxes of paperwork, I came across a program for the American Ballet Theater dated May 5, 1960. The envelope it was in said that it was Glen Tetley’s mother’s program from his performance with ABT. Hidden inside the pages, resting next to Glen’s name on the cast list, was a pressed red rose. This was such a touching moment for me as this mountain of boxes transformed into a treasure chest with each memento, photograph, and paper documenting the life of this historic choreographer in their own way. I truly felt honored to be the one to help preserve Glen Tetley’s legacy by ensuring this evidence of his incredible life would last for years to come.

Souvenir program for the American Ballet Theatre. Dated 1960. Pressed red rose next to Glen Tetley's name as dancer performing in "Pillar of Fire."

Souvenir program for the American Ballet Theatre. Dated 1960. Pressed red rose next to Glen Tetley’s name listed as dancer performing in “Pillar of Fire.”

DISCOVERY, DANCE, DEGAS, & DC; SAA Conference 2014

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The entire summer, I’d been anxious to attend the 2014 Society of American Archivists conference being held in Washington DC. Despite my desire to attend a professional conference like this one in the past, I’d never had the financial means or time to be able to participate. I was so incredibly grateful that the Dance Heritage Coalition was able to allow me to attend through this Fellowship! This trip to my first professional conference was simultaneously my first time visiting Washington DC. 

Arriving to the hotel, it was so fun to see and catch up with the other Fellows. We have continued to keep in touch all summer using a Facebook group page I set up, but it was a great reunion getting to catch up with everyone in person. Each of the Fellows had exciting stories to share about the hard work that they have done with the various organizations all summer. The conference hotel was a flurry of excitement with conversations of archiving filling the air. It took a little time to figure out the layout of the hotel to know where to find each of the session rooms. The Performing Arts Roundtable was a great introduction to the conference atmosphere. I felt so inspired hearing about the various projects that the speakers discussed. It was comforting to know that even the top archivists and archives in the field have problems, obstacles, and struggles that they are fighting to overcome. These conferences are a great way to share professional knowledge and expertise. Often times archivists are generalized with the stereotype of being introverted with their collections and personalities, but what I viewed at the conference was a friendly and open atmosphere that encouraged problem solving and communication between organizations and archivists.

 The first session I attended was Session 102: Spreading the Word: Access to Oral History Collections in the Digital Age. The format of this session was a lightening round! This format was great since we were able to hear about a wide variety of oral history projects and the various issues that occurred, but the small amount of time allotted to each speaker didn’t allow them to go into as much detail as I would have liked. The second session of the day: Session 206: Show me the Stuff: Integrating Digital Objects in Finding Aids was slightly disappointing. Because of the large crowd in the session and not enough chairs, I was forced to stand at the back of the room where it was difficult to hear and see. From this experience, I learned to arrive at each session early and sit as close to the front of the room as possible. I saw a huge difference in the amount that I learned from each session when I sat close to the front. I had hoped that this session would emphasize how to input digital objects into finding aids. Instead, the speakers just promoted various content management systems (as if trying to sway listeners to use one over the other.)

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Friday was an incredible conference day with two of the sessions that were most memorable to me: Session 303: Access to Funds Means Access to Archives: How Raising PRivate Money Works and Session 303: Making it Happen: Tools and Tips for Effective Archival Project Management. Since a lack of funds is an ever-present problem with archives, especially in the dance world, I really listened intently about suggestions for raising private money. What I took away from the session was the importance of building up a membership as a way of keeping investors invested not only monetarily, but emotionally as well. This could be by hosting special exhibit views, “Thank you” parties, or giving gift bags in exchange for donations. This way the donor feels more connected to the work that the organization is doing and can personally meet the staff, opposed to merely being a check that hopefully gets renewed each year. After the 404 session I was eager to meet one of the speakers afterwards, Ms. Laura Starr who is an Archivist with the History Associates Inc. She had spoken about an extensive project of assisting the National Parks Service retroactively archive almost 38 million items in their collection. A huge feat!

The exhibitor hall was yet another exciting part of the conference. Speaking with the various vendors was enlightening since so many technologies and processes are being developed in the field. I couldn’t resist a photo with this large archival scanner! One technological advancement that absolutely floored me was “IRENE”. One of the conference speakers told us about “IRENE” in one of the sessions. IRENE is a camera and scanner that can digitize old music discs and wax reels without touching them. It also allows the ability to then do preservation of piecing together parts a broken record for instance. This service will likely be extremely expensive, but I can see the huge value in this machine since it allows the ability to digitize without fear of damage to the item itself. 

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The conference finale reception held at the Library of Congress was a thrill! I felt like a child being released to run around an amusement park as I explored every nook and cranny and exhibit room that we were allowed access into. The old card catalog room was open to view and of course, I went right away to the “Dance” cards and happily flipped through. The Main Reading Room was better in person than I could have ever imagined. The beauty of the architecture and books circling the room was majestic and certainly sparked an urge to pick up a book and start reading.

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Coincidentally, the Washington DC 2014 Bachata/Salsa Conference was taking place at the same hotel we were staying at! Since I enjoy dancing Bachata and Salsa in NYC, I couldn’t believe my luck! I attended one of their two performance nights which included dancers and troupes from all over the East Coast. 

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Desiring to incorporate as much dance as possible into my visit to DC, I couldn’t wait to view the exhibit of American Ballet Theatre materials at the Library of Congress. ABT’s donation of their archival materials to the Library of Congress  is relatively recent and it is pleasing to know that they are now being well taken care of and put on view for the public. The exhibit was much smaller than I’d hoped, but gave a good surface level introduction to the history of ABT and the types of materials in the holdings such as photographs, costume and set designs, correspondence, etc. One stand-out item in the exhibit was Bronislava Nijinska’s choreographic sketch for La Fille Mal Gardee from 1940 (items from other collections supplemented the ABT exhibit, although I wish it had been kept purely as the new ABT additions…) The stunning poster pictured above was advertising ABT performances in Russia in the 1960s.  

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I was fortunate to be able to spend an extra day in DC to get in even more sight-seeing. Yet again, I was able to find DANCE! This trip was great timing because The National Gallery of Art’s Degas/Cassatt exhibit was still open! Photography was not allowed inside which made me try to imprint the beauty and eloquence of the sketches and prints as much as I could. Before attending this exhibit, I was not aware of how influential Degas’ work was on Mary Cassatt nor how they both collected each other’s pieces! The expertly-designed exhibit with an audio tour really allowed the viewer to see the evolution of both of the artist’s works and the hidden clues and evidence hidden within the paint! Taking a photo with Degas’ “The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer” sculpture was a perfect way to conclude the Archiving/Dance conference extravaganza!  

Museum of Performance + Design in San Francisco!

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San Francisco is home to the oldest professional ballet company in America, the San Francisco Ballet. Throughout the life of the Company, several landmarks in American ballet history were made by the San Francisco Ballet including performing the first American full-length production of Swan Lake in 1940 and premiering the first complete version of the Nutcracker ballet ever staged in the United States in 1944, both choreographed by Willam Christensen.  The historical significance of this Company was what inspired my desire to learn more about the Company and its history by way of its archival materials. So far, these weeks of my Dance Heritage Coalition Fellowship spent at the Museum of Performance + Design working with the San Francisco Ballet Archives have been better than I could have ever hoped for.

Gorgeous early souvenir program for the San Francisco Ballet.

Gorgeous early souvenir program for the San Francisco Ballet.

The Museum of Performance + Design (MP+D,) located at 893B Fulsom Avenue in the SOMA neighborhood, is an incredible resource for students, researchers, and anyone interested in the arts. The amount of materials we’ve seen at MP+D barely skims the surface of the historically and aesthetically significant materials held within the archival boxes. Kirsten Tanaka, MP+D Head Librarian and Archivist, wears many hats when it comes to the many job requirements at the museum and has been extremely welcoming to us Fellows. From the tour of MP+D’s holding Kirsten generously gave us on our first day, it is clear she is incredibly knowledgeable about the many holdings as well as is passionate about her work. Russell Hartley, a former dancer and SFB employee, was the founding father of the museum’s holdings. What started out as his personal collection grew into a treasure trove of materials relating to not only the San Francisco Ballet, but all the performing arts. It is pleasing to know that the San Francisco Ballet continues to have a direct connection at MP+D since the Executive Director, Muriel Maffre, was a principal dancer with SFB up until 2007. MP+D continues to accept donations to continue the collecting, preserving, and documenting mission Hartley developed so many years earlier (a donation of 75+ boxes from the composer Conrad Susa was a recent addition that arrived during my stay.) Like so many other archival collections, especially in the performing arts community, space is an issue as the collection pushes against the seams of the museum’s walls. Luckily, this does not deter the Museum staff from accommodating researchers, putting on exciting site-specific performances and exhibits, nor accepting important donations that may otherwise have been tossed away.

A travel steamer trunk once used by the Pavley Oukrainsky Ballet!

A travel steamer trunk once used by the Pavley Oukrainsky Ballet!

The San Francisco Ballet Archivist and MP+D Project Archivist is the spunky and full-of-life Supriya Wronkiewicz. She has been my guide and go-to-gal for working with the SFB materials.  There have been two primary projects that I’ve been working on with the SFB Archives. The major one is the re-organization of the SFB Public Relations and Marketing series. Years ago, the PR/Marketing series was organized by subject then filed chronologically. This is beneficial for finding groupings of seasonal files on programs such as “Fridays at the Ballet” over the years, but for the daily papers and correspondence being created, it seemed that chronological order would make more sense. My experience working in the Press Office at New York City Ballet really came in handy when deciding how to best sort the materials for easy future access for both the SFB staff as well as future researchers and SFB archivists.

The boxes we transferred from San Francisco Ballet's offices to MP+D for processing.

The boxes we transferred from San Francisco Ballet’s offices to MP+D for processing.

Alternating with the processing project, was working with Archivists’ Toolkit. This was my first time working with this program and even though it seems like a challenge to install and customize, it is easy to use when the design and organization is already in place. For this project, I began with the SFB Biography Files. This was a total of approximately 20 boxes of files of photographs, biography notes, and press clippings on file for various dancers, choreographers, staff, etc. This was an AMAZING way to familiarize myself with the SFB collection. My duties included first making sure the files were in alphabetical order. Then numbering each file with the box number then the individual folder number. For example: 250-13. After numbering, I would enter the information written on the folder into the Archivists’ Toolkit fields (each folder received its own entry). It was impossible to resist glancing through the folders as I went along. I loved being able to read snippets of reviews of former dancers, including the now MP+D Executive Director, Muriel Maffre. After completing the task of entering all of the biography folders into AT, I then plowed through the Oversize Ballet Photographs and then the Ballet Photographs folders. Just like how the SFB Biography files helped introduce the historic figures at SFB, the Ballet Photograph boxes gave me an incredible glimpse into what SFB performances, past and present, look like. This was much appreciated since I came to San Francisco saddened by the fact that the San Francisco Ballet would not be performing during our stay.

My workstation for doing file-level data entry into Archivists' Toolkit.

My workstation for doing file-level data entry into Archivists’ Toolkit.

Work on the forthcoming exhibit of incredible hats from historic costumes has begun! It will be exciting to watch the exhibit take shape these next few days in anticipation for the exhibit opening in July 17th. One of the hats being showcased is from Tatiana Riabouchinska’s Le Coq d’or costume from the Ballet Russe company. I had the extreme pleasure in getting to view this costume in our first few days at the museum and it quite literally took my breath away. This is the magic of the archive when an item or book can incite curiosity, beauty, and excitement and affects each person in a unique way.

Tatiana Riabouchinska in costume for the ballet "Le Coq d'or" choreographed by Michel Fokine. Photograph courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Tatiana Riabouchinska in costume for the ballet “Le Coq d’or” choreographed by Michel Fokine. Photograph courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Cohorts Convening in Chicago!

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Camera in hand, I sat on the edge of my seat as the airport shuttle van driver speedily drove me to my destination in downtown Chicago. The smidge of nervousness I’d had about beginning this Dance Heritage Coalition Fellowship and meeting the other seven Fellows was quickly replaced with sheer excitement as the Chicago skyline soon came into view. This was my first time spending time in the Windy City and I was eager to explore. Having spent the last 3.5 years living in New York City, I felt confident enough that I’d be able to navigate this new terrain without much difficulty. Immediately after dropping off my three large pieces of luggage (two of which were tagged as “heavy” by TSA) at the University Center housing, I dashed outdoors to wander the neighborhood.

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My meandering led me to the magnificent Buckingham Fountain (pictured below). With the skyline as a backdrop from one angle and Lake Michigan from the other angle, it was a picture-perfect sight. It was during this moment as I sat on a park bench and watched the other visitors take photos in awe as well, that I knew this week of orientation would a week I would never forget. Later this evening the eight 2014 DHC Fellows met up with DHC staff members Libby Smigel and Imogen Smith for a wonderful welcome dinner where conversation about dance and archives were abundant!

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Our first field trip as a group was to the Newberry Library. The grandeur of the library hardly compares to the treasures held inside!  Alison HInderliter was an inspiring speaker and shared with us information about the Newberry Library’s collections, access policies, processing work, and many other useful tidbits. The “show-and-tell” part of the talk was the most exciting. Here, Alison shared with us fantastic pieces from the collection including Ballet Russe photographs, Anna Pavlova’s deathmask, and Anna Pavlova’s pointe shoes (pictured above). I felt so fortunate to also have the chance to tour the non-circulating holdings where the Ann Barzel collection is stored. My personal dance library of 500+ books looked meager after viewing Ms. Barzel’s collection of every kind of dance book imaginable. I was thrilled to get to view Tanaquil le Clercq’s Ballet Cookbook in person since I’d always admired it from a far.

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Wednesday was a full day where we Fellows got to witness and participate in archival pre-assessments for the Natya Dance Theater and Jump Rhythm Jazz Project/Billy Siegenfeld. Natya Dance Theater’s office is in the stunning Fine Arts building on Michigan Avenue. The historic interior décor, paintings, and elevator created a feeling like we’d been transported back in time. Having the Natya Dance Theater’s office space in this historic artist haven seemed very fitting since the Indian classical dance form Bharata Natyam has a rich history as well. We were all pleasantly surprised at the good conditions that Bill Jordan, Program Coordinator, kept the company’s files and archival materials in. We then took the subway across town to visit Jump Rhythm Jazz Project which has residency at the Athenaeum Theater. Getting to hear artistic director, Billy Siegenfeld, share his passion and dedication to the style of dance he has developed over the years was inspiring. He is so full of life and energy and clearly has put his whole heart into his dance company. I think we all had a fun time asking our individual questions about their archival materials and practices. My topic to take notes on was about the physical environment the archival materials were residing in as well as the emergency preparedness plan (if any) the company had in case of disaster. This was truly a learning experience getting to converse with a dance company and compile notes and recommendations on how their archive could be improved.

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Visiting the Chicago Film Archives was a highlight of the week for me! The executive director, Nancy Watrous, was so welcoming and kind and shared her passion and knowledge about the various film collections they have acquired. I love how this film archive was built from scratch and has blossomed into an incredible resource for research and entertainment. Their willingness to share the films in screenings and over the internet was a breath of fresh air since oftentimes incredible films are restricted due to copyrights. While perusing the film stacks, my eyes spotted a film reel labeled “Watching Ballet.” I’d be very interested in viewing this film!

ImageGetting to view the retro store signs and architecture around Chicago made me happy to have chosen the archiving career.  It’s nice to know that I can be a part of the dedicated group of people to preserve our histories to share with future generations. I learned so much during this Orientation week about dance companies in Chicago as well as the city itself. But the best part was getting to spend time with the other Fellows who share my love of dance and archiving. I sincerely look forward to working with my peers to create innovative ideas on how we can preserve and document dance. Now, on to San Francisco!

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