October 22, 2021

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Acquires Archive of Legendary Dance Artist Martha Graham

From NYPL:

The New York Public Library of the Performing Arts has acquired the archive of Martha Graham, one of the most significant and influential voices of the modern dance movement. The multimedia collection from the Martha Graham Dance Company contains films of the groundbreaking dancer at the peak of her career, alongside photographs, choreographic notations, correspondence, and other historical materials. Today marks the 126th anniversary of Graham’s birth.

The Martha Graham Dance Company, the oldest dance company in the United States, celebrated its 94th anniversary on April 18. Its archive will provide valuable insight and context for American modern dance from its earliest days through decades of discovery. Spanning 40 linear feet and featuring over 400 audio and moving image items, the collection covers the life and work of the esteemed choreographer from her childhood days to her legendary career to her creative legacy and influence through the founding of her Company.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • Film of iconic Graham works including Appalachian Spring, Frontier, Letter to the World and American Document;

  • Tintype family photographs from Graham’s childhood;

  • An extensive photograph collection of Graham’s canon by photographers including Barbara Morgan and Soichi Sunami;

  • Isamu Noguchi’s set drawings for Seraphic Dialogue, including handwritten notes by Noguchi.

  • Choreographic notes for American Document.

The Company’s historic films were remastered and its extensive collection of images and documents were digitized in a three-year project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Executive Director LaRue Allen said, “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for making the restoration of these important objects possible and to the New York Public Library for its commitment to preserving them for future generations.”

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In honor of Martha Graham’s birthday today, and to celebrate her new home at the Library, the Martha Graham Dance Company is releasing special digital content on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram throughout the week. Its popular Martha Matinee will feature an overview of Graham’s classic from 1944, Herodiade, including rare footage that is part of the Library’s acquisition.

Martha Graham (May 11, 1894–April 1, 1991) has had a deep and lasting impact on American art and culture. She single-handedly defined contemporary dance as a uniquely American art form, which the nation has in turn shared with the world. During her long and illustrious career, Graham created 181 choreographic works and a dance technique that has been compared to ballet in its scope and magnitude. Her approach to dance and theater revolutionized the art form and her innovative physical vocabulary has irrevocably influenced dance worldwide.

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The Library will process and catalog the Martha Graham archive over the next two years. It will then be available to users in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center.

Learn More, Read the Complete Acquisition Announcement

Learn More, View Images from the Collection (via NY Times) “For the Public Library, Martha Graham Is the Missing Link”

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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