Carnegie Hall Launches New Digital Collections Preview Inviting the General Public to Search and Explore Select Archival Collections Online for the First Time
More Than 80,000+ Historic Items Can Now Be Searched and Shared for Free, Including: Original Concert Programs Dating From Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night in 1891 Through 1925, Flyers, Photographs, Correspondence, Press Clippings Autographs, Booking Ledger Pages, and Promotional Films
Visit the Digital Collections Preview at collections.carnegiehall.org
Carnegie Hall today announced the launch of its new online Digital Collections, inviting the general public to search, explore, and download more than 80,000 recently digitized historic items from its archives for the very first time. This initial preview, drawn from the Hall’s legacy collections, offers a window into the richly diverse history of events at the Hall since its opening in 1891, with an emphasis on the Hall’s earliest decades. It includes Carnegie Hall concert programs from 1891–1925; flyers; photographs; correspondence; newspaper clippings; autographs; booking ledger pages; and a select number of promotional films. The goal of this digital initiative is to provide broader public access to the Hall’s archival collections, providing a new way for people to engage with Carnegie Hall’s history and share it with others.
Examples of unique items featured in the preview include a 35mm black and white video of mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel performing at Carnegie Hall in 1953, newly restored and with the addition of captions; a flyer for an all-Richard Strauss program conducted by the composer himself and featuring the United States debut of his wife, soprano Pauline Strauss de Ahna; previously unpublished correspondence from sixty composers including Alban Berg; the complete autograph album of former Carnegie Hall manager Louis Salter with signatures from Arthur Conan Doyle, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sergei Prokofiev, and Igor Stravinsky; concert booking ledgers spanning more than 50 seasons, including entries for the Carnegie Hall performance by The Beatles in 1964, plus many other historic presentations; and original concert programs that date back to and include Carnegie Hall’s May 5, 1891 Opening Night concert with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The public can now access the Digital Collections Preview for free at collections.carnegiehall.org where they can discover and download items selected for this first release, all classified as either being in the public domain under US laws or without known copyright restrictions. While introducing these first searchable collections, the Archives is asking the public for input on how they wish to engage with the Hall’s history looking ahead. Information gathered from an online survey will assist with refining the user experience and planning for releases of new material in the future.
“Through each of Carnegie Hall’s digital initiatives, we seek to expand the circle of people everywhere that can engage with the Hall and its programs,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director. “The Hall’s history has been an important touchpoint for so many people around the world who love great music. I congratulate Gino Francesconi and his Archives team for their hard work in making these legacy collections more accessible than ever before. We especially send a huge thank you and our deep appreciation to Vartan Gregorian and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Susan and Elihu Rose, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who have been strong advocates and supporters of this project from the very start, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
“The story of Carnegie Hall is fascinating from so many vantage points,” said Gino Francesconi, Director of Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Rose Museum. “The Hall’s collections mirror the evolution of New York City in the 20th century and reflect a myriad of social, cultural, and political developments over the decades. Most importantly—as the Hall has always been the destination for the greatest artists—it provides a sweeping view of how music has developed over the last century, not only in America, but around the world."
In the decades since Mr. Francesconi established Carnegie Hall’s Archives in 1986, more than 300,000 items have been added to the Hall’s collections. This newest project reflects how priorities in the archival field have shifted in recent years to not only include the collection and preservation of materials, but also a focus on digitizing and working toward making artifacts available online to increase access.
“Over the decades, Carnegie Hall’s audience has been so incredibly generous in contributing materials, helping us build this collection,” said Mr. Francesconi. “In making them digitally accessible, it’s exciting to now be able to give something back, inviting everyone to be able to share and explore this remarkable history together.”
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The Carnegie Hall Archives was established in 1986 in preparation for the Hall’s centennial celebrations in 1991. Since no central repository existed prior to that time, a significant portion of the Hall’s documented history had been lost, discarded, or otherwise forgotten. Over the last 30 years, Carnegie Hall’s Archives team, led by Mr. Francesconi, has meticulously re-constructed the Hall’s history, frequently turning to concertgoers, artists, and music lovers across the country to collect hundreds of thousands of items related to close to 50,000 performances and events in its three concert halls; construction of the building and its subsequent alterations; and the many notable artists, world figures, and personalities who have graced the Hall’s stages. Many of these artifacts have been put on display to concertgoers and the public in Carnegie Hall’s Rose Museum, opened in 1991 and funded by the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation.
In 2012, the Archives entered a new chapter in its development with the launch of a Digital Archives Project. This initiative has enabled Carnegie Hall to digitize most of its historic materials—many of which were previously available only on paper or in obsolete media formats—ensuring that the Hall’s legacy is preserved for future generations. It has also created a dynamic digital repository designed to house digital legacy collections and to capture new content and materials developed by Carnegie Hall in support of its artistic and educational initiatives. In 2013, searchable program information from 1891 through present was made available to the public for the first time through the Performance History Search, continuously updated on the Carnegie Hall website. As a result of the project, archival materials and information have been made accessible in a much greater way—both on-site at Carnegie Hall and online—in support of the Hall’s mission, serving the widest possible audience.
Since the project’s start, the Archives has worked with the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)—the first independent laboratory in the US specializing in the conservation and preservation of paper- and film-based collections—to conserve and digitize bound and loose programs to 1953, as well as architectural drawings, photos, and lacquer audio discs. Much of Carnegie Hall’s legacy collection has also been digitized on-site by digital photographer Ardon Bar-Hama, who was selected based on his work on projects including the Codex Vaticanus-Biblioteca Apostolica at the Vatican in Rome; The Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel; as well as the New York Philharmonic Archives and the Manuscript Collection of The Juilliard School in New York City. Additional digitizing and reformatting work has been done by other highly-skilled and specialized vendors including ColorLab, and The MediaPreserve. An in-house team of five Carnegie Hall archivists are responsible for the ongoing cataloguing and digitization of the Hall’s ever-growing historical repository.
The Hall’s new Digital Collections has been made possible by generous funding by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Public support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
EXPLORING CARNEGIE HALL'S DIGITAL COLLECTIONS PREVIEW
For this first release of archival items in Carnegie Hall’s Digital Collections, the public is invited to explore artifacts categorized into seven major collections: Carnegie Hall Programs (1891–1925); Flyers, Posters, Window Cards Collection (1891–1925); the Isaac A. Hopper Scrapbook; the Louis Salter Autograph Collection; Carnegie Hall Films Company Collection; the Booking Ledgers Collection; and the Geiger Collection of Modern Composers.
Carnegie Hall Programs (1891-1925)
Chronicling 128 years of musical and non-musical events, the Carnegie Hall Programs form the backbone of Carnegie Hall’s legacy collection providing information on close to 50,000 events that have taken place throughout the Hall’s history. More than 300 bound volumes and 550 boxes of loose programs, program notes, and souvenir programs have now been digitized as part of Carnegie Hall’s ongoing digitization.
Digitized copies of original program pages from 1891–1925 are now available for exploration, search, and download as part of the Digital Collections Preview, including programs for the US debut of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky at Carnegie Hall in 1891; the world premiere of Antonín Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony with the Philharmonic Society of New York conducted by Anton Seidl in 1893; the US premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, conducted by the composer in 1908; the complete program of James Reese Europe and the Clef Club Orchestra, performing a “Concert of Negro Music”, which brought jazz in its earliest form to the Hall in 1912; a celebration by American University Women to Honor and Welcome Marie Curie in 1921; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1922 lecture “Recent Psychic Evidence,” plus much more.
Flyers, Posters, Window Cards Collection (1891-1925)
Consisting of approximately 5,000 promotional flyers, 600 window cards, and 200 large posters, this collection includes promotional items that were displayed on the exterior of Carnegie Hall’s building or distributed by hand or mail. Items advertise a variety of musical and non-musical events at the Hall. Examples from this release of material from 1891–1925 include a lecture on December 22, 1911 by American frontiersman, rancher, and conservationist Col. Charles J. “Buffalo” Jones, who was known as one of the preservers of the American bison; a dance performance by the Duncan Dancers on November 3,1923 featuring Isadora Duncan, the “mother of modern dance;” an all-Strauss program performed on March 1, 1904, conducted by Richard Strauss and featuring the US debut of his wife, soprano Pauline Strauss de Ahna; an American Defense Society “Win the War” Mass Meeting on May 7, 1918 with speaker Theodore Roosevelt; and flyer from La Scala Orchestra’s 1921 US tour with Maestro Arturo Toscanini.
Booking Ledger Collection
Spanning 52 ledgers with 6,900 pages, Carnegie Hall’s booking ledgers chronicle every event that took place in Carnegie Hall’s three auditoriums and were used to schedule performances from 1955–2007, including The Beatles 1964 debut (famously misspelled “The Beetles” in the ledger pages). This collection provides a rare glimpse into the lives and careers of great artists and managers, as well as being some of the only documentation for non-music events such as lectures, meetings, and rallies in support of civic causes that have been held at the Hall.
Carnegie Hall began to use scheduling software in the late 1990s, however the Hall’s Booking Director continued to keep ledgers as back-up documentation through the 2006–2007 season. Additional funding for the digitization of this collection has been provided by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.
Louis Salter Collection
Louis Salter worked at Carnegie Hall from 1893–1925, first as assistant electrician and eventually as superintendent. He was an avid collector of autographs of people he met at the Hall, and this collection catalogues more than 100 autographs principally from 1912–1925, including signatures of Roald Amundsen, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lily Pons, Sergei Prokofiev, Kirsten Flagstad, and Igor Stravinsky, along with signed photographs of Jascha Heifetz, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Arturo Toscanini, Emma Calvé, Teresa Carreño, and Wilhelm Furtwãngler.
Isaac A. Hopper Scrapbook
Isaac A. Hopper was the owner of the construction company that built Carnegie Hall in 1891, along with other building projects around New York City and its five boroughs in the 19th and 20th centuries. He was a well-known and dynamic man of Harlem, involved in the social life of the city, and was president of Tammany Hall Club in the 31st district. The 300-page scrapbook of newspaper clippings, essays, photographs, and other materials chronicles his life in the building industry and politics, circa 1890s to 1920s.
Carnegie Hall Films Company Collection
The “Concerts at Carnegie Hall” film collection—produced in 1953 by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Robert Snyder—features rarely-seen 35mm black and white films of several of the greatest musicians of that time at the height of their careers performing on the main stage of the Hall. The four films include a performance by distinguished mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel. At the time, Ms. Tourel was considered peerless as an interpreter of French art-song. She also specialized in the Italian coloratura mezzo-soprano repertory and the music of Leonard Bernstein, with whom she was closely associated. In the film, Ms. Tourel is accompanied by eminent harpsichordist and pianist Ralph Kirkpatrick. The other films in the collection include performances by Claudio Arrau—one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century; harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick; and violin virtuoso Michael Rabin, accompanied on piano by David Garvey.
The collection represents some of the only moving image material of artists performing inside Carnegie Hall that exists prior to 1960 when the historic building was saved from demolition and later incorporated as a non-profit. Given the historical significance of the collection and the fact that it was at high risk for degradation and previously not accessible for viewing, it was one of the Archives’s first priorities for preservation. Carnegie Hall’s Archives collaborated with Academy Film Archives and the Museum of Modern Art during this process. The Carnegie Hall Films Company Collection was preserved with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Geiger Collection of Modern Composers
In 1934, author David Ewen, working on a new edition of Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, sent questionnaires to 60 modern composers including Alban Berg, Jean Sibelius, Anton Webern, and Edgar Varèse. The questionnaires, along with written correspondence between the composers and Mr. Ewen, were presented to the Carnegie Hall Archives in 1994 as a gift from the family of Robert Geiger, an editor of Baker’s Biographical Dictionary. The collection has remained unpublished until now.
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Lead funding for The Digital Collections has been generously provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Public support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Additional funding for the Digital Collections has been provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation and by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.
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