Friends to Host Launch of Online Exhibition Featuring Ziegfeld's Designer

NEW YORK, March 03, 2005 The Friends of the Columbia Libraries are sponsoring the launch of an online exhibition featuring Joseph Urban Stage Design Models on Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at 6:00 P.M. in room 523 of Butler Library.

The Urban collection has been among the most heavily used collections by researchers and scholars at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The newly designed website now provides unprecedented access to rarely seen images of Joseph Urban’s stage designs, documents, and drawings.

The collection consists of 15,000 items including three-dimensional stage models, drawings, photographs, and sketches dating from 1914–1933, when Urban worked on New York productions such as the Ziegfeld Follies, the Metropolitan Opera, and a variety of Broadway productions. Although Urban worked in Boston, Vienna, and elsewhere in the United States, the project focuses on his work in New York, where he spent most of his professional career.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Urban’s name was synonymous with modern design. Born in Austria, he moved to the United States in 1911 to become the art director of the Boston Opera. Equally skilled as an architect, set designer, and interior designer, his work ranged from the exuberant Art Deco forms of the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City and the Ziegfeld Follies sets, to the refined international style of the New School for Social Research and the Hearst International Magazine Building. Many of the decorative interiors he created between 1928 and 1933 became synonymous with the New York night life of the period, including the St. Regis Roof, the Central Park Casino, and the Paradise Restaurant.

During his lifetime he designed between 500 and 700 stage sets for at least 168 productions, many of which he also directed. The Joseph Urban Papers Stabilization and Access Project was a joint effort of the Digital Program Division, Preservation Division, and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University Libraries.

The event is free and open to the Columbia community and general public. A reception will follow the presentation. To register please call 212-854-4768, or e-mail

The Libraries Digital Program Division at Columbia was created in September 2002. The Division is responsible for collection-based digitization projects, improving access to and management of Columbia’s licensed commercial electronic resources, and implementing technological solutions for the Libraries’ evolving digital needs.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children's literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

03/03/05 JD