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Series I: Puppets
Series II: Masks
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in three series.
This collection contains 391 puppets, 128 masks, and 30 stage models.
This collection now contains 391 objects; mostly puppets, including marionettes, hand puppets, rod puppets, pantins, and shadow puppets, but also a number of figurines, dolls and dioramas, and three textiles. It appears that non-puppet three-dimensional objects were included in the puppet series before 1971. The puppets were assigned identification numbers during a cataloging project in the 1960s. All puppet identification numbers higher than P69 were assigned in 2009.
The earliest acquisitions were gifts of Brander Matthews. The most recent acquisitions, and also the collection's newest items, are three beggar figurines made by Russian émigrés living in Iran during WWII. They were the gift of Majorie Windust Halper in 1989.
What began as a collection of English, French and Italian puppets gradually became a collection of considerable breadth, with puppets from Burma, China, India, the United States, Thailand, Turkey, Java, Japan, and Mexico, among other countries. The oldest puppets are two 18th century French marionettes of Joseph and one of the Magi. Highlights of the collection include two eight-foot tall puppets designed by Robert Edmond Jones and constructed by American theatre pioneer Remo Bufano for the Metropolitan Opera's 1931 production of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex".
This collection now contains 128 masks, mask molds, wigs, and plaster mask reproductions. The oldest mask in the collection is an 18th century Javanese dance mask. A gift from Prof. and Mrs. Samuel and Natasha Shterenzon Eilenberg in 1963, the mask is also the most recent acquisition. The newest masks in the collection were made in 1955 for an American production of Lysistrata. The collection includes items from Japan, Italy, Java, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, India, and the United States. It is particularly abundant in Japanese, Mexican, and American masks.
This collection contains 30 models, both models of historic theatres and set designs for specific productions. The models were acquired between 1911 and the 1960s. The set designs were largely the gifts of the various people involved with productions, from set designers to producers, and were acquired fairly consistently throughout the museum's existence. The theatre models, on the other hand, were either gifts of Brander Matthews and other Dramatic Museum patrons or directly commissioned by the Museum, and were planned to display the full history of the theater when taken together. Global breadth appears to have been the goal of the BMDM's curators, who were desirous of adding a Spanish theatre model to the collection.
A broad rather than deep collection, it nevertheless has concentrations of French, English, American, and Japanese models. The earliest model, depicting a production of Leah Kleschna at the Manhattan Theatre in New York, was built in 1904. The latest models, both set designs, were built in 1966 for Japanese productions.
The several Joseph Urban set models which the BMDM had collected to illustrate various parts of that influential man's career were added to the over 300 set models in the Joseph Urban Papers when his widow presented them to the Museum in 1955, and are described in the Urban finding aid.
The numbering is that used in Donald Pace's "Catalogue of the Brander Matthews Collection of Theatre Models" (New York: Barnard College, 1973).
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located on-site.
Some of the items are fragile and their use may be restricted. The larger items (models and some puppets) can only be seen by appointment. These restrictions are included in the descriptions of the individual items, below.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Dramatic Museum Realia. Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Related Material-- at Columbia
Dramatic Museum Ephemera Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Dramatic Museum Ephemera Colelction contains posters, playbills, programs, subject files and portraits once part of the Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum.
Dramatic Library Manuscript Collection 1864-1911 Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Dramatic Library Manuscript Collection 1864-1911 contains a collection of letters and manuscripts that formed part of the collection of the Dramatic Museum
Columbia University Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum Collection Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library
These are the records of the Dramatic Museum itself, and contain much information on the acquisition of the Realia.
Joseph Urban Papers, 1893-1998 Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Joseph Urban Papers, which were originally acquired by the Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum and are now held by RBML, contain a large number of set models created by Urban's studio.
Other materials from the Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum are in the Office of Art Properties (art objects such as puppets and masks); Barnard's Minor Latham Theatre (stage and theater models); Barnard Library (phonograph records - 33 1/3 rpm); and the Music Library (music phonograph records).
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
This finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
This finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and written by Maria Abascal, CC2009, and Jane Siegel.
Puppet and mask descriptions are based primarily on the card catalogs prepared by the BMDM in the 1960s; the model descriptions are based primarily on Donald Pace's Catalogue of the Brander Matthews Collection of Theatre Models (New York: Barnard College, 1973).
2010-06-19 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Brander Matthews (1852-1929) first began collecting puppets in 1867 at the age of sixteen, when on his first trip to France he bought a set of eleven Guignol hand puppets with wooden heads. His puppet collection, along with the various stage models and masks he had collected over the years, eventually became part of the Dramatic Museum, which opened in 1911.
After Matthew's death, the Museum's curators continued to expand the collections, and created an inventory of the puppets and masks in the 1960s.
When the museum was dissolved in 1971, the puppets and masks were transferred first to the Art Properties Department, and then to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1981 & 1983, where they remain. The set models were first on long-term loan to Barnard, and then most were for many years on display in Dodge Hall; they were transferred to Art Properties in 1996, then to RBML in 2001. Many pieces included in the Museum's 1960s inventories are no longer in the collection. Only the remaining items are described in this finding aid.