The National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Two Preservation Grants to Columbia University Libraries.


May 10, 2002 - The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded over $325,000 in preservation grants to Columbia University. The Joseph Urban Stage Design Models and Documents stabilization and access project will preserve 240 three-dimensional stage models created by Joseph Urban for New York theaters between 1914-1933. Preserving Oral Histories of 20th-Century Politics will preserve almost 800 hours of unique taped oral history interviews from the era of Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Taft, and Adlai Stevenson, conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Joseph Urban Stage Design Models and Documents project will preserve 240 three-dimensional stage models created by Joseph Urban for New York theaters between 1914-1933, including productions for the Ziegfeld Follies, the Metropolitan Opera, and a variety of Broadway theaters. The project, directed by Janet Gertz, was awarded $207,289 to stabilize and rehouse the extremely fragile set models so that they can safely be examined by researchers. The project will also create and link digital images of related stage design documents and drawings to the existing online finding aid.

The Urban Collection, housed in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, is very important because it is our only remaining insight into the evolution of a pre-eminent artist's stage designs. The collocation of Urban's early roughed-out sketches with detailed drawings and models, and with photographs of the fully realized stage sets provides researchers valuable clues into how he turned his initial inspirations into reality. His elegant watercolor drawings and models in particular have an immediacy that speaks to any viewer. Urban made use of the three-dimensional models to see what visual effects his concepts could create, to think through realization of the design in terms of actors' movements, scene shifts, lighting, sight lines, and angles of view. Ultimately, they serve as wonderful records of the productions.

Preserving Oral Histories of 20th-Centruy Politics project is directed by Deputy University Librarian, Patricia Renfro. The NEH granted $122,483 to Columbia to preserve almost 800 hours of unique taped oral history interviews from the era of Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Taft, and Adlai Stevenson, conducted in the 1950s and 1960s by the Columbia Oral History Research Office, among the oldest and largest university-based oral history programs in the world.

The tapes to be preserved have been chosen from the Oral History Research Office collections of over 17,000 hours of interviews not only because they represent some of the oldest tapes in the collection, but because they are among the most important for the interpretation of American history and politics in the last century. Concentrating on the politics of the 1940s and the post-World War II era through the Kennedy administration, and dominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert A. Taft, and Adlai E. Stevenson, the selected collections encompass almost every aspect of post World War II American politics and contain firsthand testimony from those who played major roles in such crucial developments as the Cold War, the career of Richard Nixon, McCarthyism, and the early civil rights movement. Of particular interest is the series of interviews done in Little Rock on the school integration crisis.

Organized in 1974, Columbia's Preservation Division is one of the five oldest library preservation programs in the United States. The division has primary responsibility for maintaining the Libraries' collections through proper care, housing, and disaster prevention. The division provides treatment of items to ensure their continued availability for use, and reformatting when use is no longer possible due to damage or severe deterioration. Materials in all formats and genres are cared for by the division, including digital resources created by the Libraries. On the Web at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/services/preservation.

For more information contact:

Janet Gertz
Director, Preservation
Columbia University Libraries
(212) 854-5757

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written: 05/10/02 KRS