Dramatic Museum Realia: Puppets and Masks


With support from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) of Columbia University will make accessible 446 puppets and 138 masks from the former Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum at Columbia, which are now housed at the RBML.

The puppets come from around the world: Africa, Burma, China, England, France, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, Russia, and the U.S. There are 40 large (over five feet tall) shadow puppets and approximately 406 other puppets, including three oversize marionettes made by the prominent artist Remo Bufano in the 1930s. Most were collected by the 1930s; many date from the nineteenth century. The masks have a similar range: they come from Africa, Ceylon, Europe, Japan, Java, Mexico, North America, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

The project will inventory and re-house the collection, and create a finding aid that describes and inventories the materials as a group and that links each entry to a scanned image of the artifact. Creating an image-based finding aid will serve two related purposes: making the existence of the collection known to researchers in general, and facilitating the harvesting of information from specialists about individual artifacts.

The finding aid for the Dramatic Museum puppets and masks will be available through Columbia’s new Archival Collections Portal, which provides easy access to primary source materials across the Columbia Libraries’ system.