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   School of the Arts Records, 1895-2011

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); School of the Arts records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.:UA#0100
Bib ID:7953736 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Columbia University. University Archives.
Title:School of the Arts Records, 1895-2011
Physical description:45 linear feet (82 document boxes, 4 record cartons, 1 oversized folder)
Language(s): This collection is in English.
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of their creation. Files concerning student records are restricted for 75 years. Please see container list for exact box and folders.  More information »



This collection is arranged in eight series.

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Scope and Content

The School of the Arts Records consists of administrative files from several offices within the School. The files span from the creation of the Department of Fine Arts through the mid-1990s and document the day to day maintenance of the School as well as the large scale vision held by faculty and administration. General administrative files such as financial records, meeting minutes, proposals, reports, and correspondence comprise the bulk of the collection. Correspondence from Dean Davidson Taylor and Associate Dean Grafton Nunes is well represented. Records from the Translation Center tend to focus on individual issues, but there are also files concerning fundraising, publicity, and the many awards granted on a yearly basis.

Series I: Administrative Files, 1954-1996

The largest series in the collection, Series I contains administrative records for the various departments within the School of the Arts. These records consist of statistics of course and department enrollment, admissions information, correspondence and documents related to different faculty members, financial records, committee meeting minutes, in particular the Committee on Instruction which was the governing body of the School. There are also reports to higher administrative, proposals for potential programs, records concerning the renovation of various performance facilities, such as Prentis Hall and Altschul Auditorium and Harkness Theatre. Included are Schuyler Chapin's extensive correspondence files (Dean, Faculty of the Arts, 1976-1987). This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series II: Department of Fine Arts, 1895-1959

Series II is comprised of general administrative records for the Department of Arts, the precursor to the School of the Arts. Files held in this series include financial records, departmental meeting minutes, correspondence between instructors, and files related to the creation and administration of outreach programs. There are also proposals and records concerning the establishment of various programs within the department as well as the staffing of those programs. These records illustrate how educational theories and trends grow and evolve. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series III: Grafton Nunes (Associate Dean), 1961-1996

Grafton Nunes's administrative records are held in this series. These subject files cover a range of topics such as maintaining and improving the undergraduate and programs, building usage, faculty concerns, and alumni. There are also files and meeting minutes related to different committees, the bulk of which are from the Subcommittee on Instructional Budgeting. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series IV: Davidson Taylor, 1952-1972

This series consists of administrative correspondence and work-related journals of Davidson Taylor in his capacity as Director of the Columbia University Arts Center, Chairman of the Committee of the Arts, Director and Dean of the School of the Arts, and Special Assistant to the President for Education in the Arts. Series IV was originally two separate collections that have been integrated into the School of the Arts Records. In light of that, much of the original arrangement has been kept. Therefore, this series is divided into five subseries.

Subseries IV.1: Alphabetical Correspondence, 1952-1971

Subseries 1 contains alphabetical correspondence files. Some of the outgoing correspondence is duplicated in Subseries 2. Included are the files pertaining to the Student Protests of 1968.

Subseries IV.2: Chronological Correspondence, 1960-1971

Subseries 2 holds carbon copies of outgoing correspondence of Taylor's office. Also includes minutes of the Committee on Instruction for the School of the Arts.

Subseries IV.3: Foundations, 1953-1972

This subseries is composed of correspondence with and proposals for funding from various local and national foundations to support the construction of the Art Center as well as fellowships and programming money for the School of the Arts. Files are arranged alphabetically by the name of the foundation.

Subseries IV.4: Urban Center, 1958-1972

The Urban Center subseries consists primarily of proposals and related correspondence with the School of the Arts, Urban Center, and outside organizations and individuals regarding funding for Arts-based minority community projects as well as scholarship money for minorities to attend the School of the Arts. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by topic or genre.

Subseries IV.5: Journals, 1959-1968

The last subseries holds Taylor's work-related journals. Within each journal is an index of individuals who are present in the journal with their respective pages. Thus, a researcher can look to see if Taylor met with faculty member Jack Beeson and turn to the notes from that meeting. Subjects covered in the journals include soliciting funding from individuals and organizations, faculty-related issues, hiring needs, departmental issues, and building and space concerns. There is one journal dedicated to the Hammerstein Theatre.

Series V: Translation Center, 1972-1994

Series V contains administrative files from the Translation Center. The series has been divided into two subseries: General and Bound Issues.

Subseries V.1: General, 1972-1994

The bulk of subseries 1 consists of files related to the awards that the Center grants annually. These are both general awards and language-specific. The files contain submissions, correspondence with accompanying documentation, and financial records. There are also quite a number files pertaining to the board such as meeting minutes, correspondence, nominations, and recommendations. Of particular interest are the records concerning the creation and development of the Translation Center's bi-annual publication, Translation: submissions with comments from the staff, budgets detailing every item, from the printing of the physical item to the celebratory party thrown at the end, and sample photographs and drawings, and mock-ups of the final issue.

Subseries V.2: Audio Visual Material, 1975

Subseries 2 contains several reel to reels and one audiotape from a series called "Translation Project" held at Columbia in 1975. Topics range from translating Asian texts to working on poetry.

Series VI: Photographs, 1968-1997

This small series is composed of photographs, contact sheets, and slides from presentations, classes, and special events. Series VI has been divided into two subseries: School of the Arts and Translation Center. They are arranged alphabetically by name, title, or subject.

Subseries 1: School of the Arts, 1968-1997

Subseries 1 holds photographs, contact sheets, negatives, and slides of School of the Arts classes, faculty, fundraisers, marketing initiatives and special events.

Subseries 2: Translation Center, 1973-1984

Subseries 2 contains photographs, contact sheets, and negatives of Translation Center staff, parties, issue launches, and other special events.

Series VII: Additions, 1977-1989

Materials relating mostly to projects and foundations.

Series VIII: MFA Student Theatre Production Materials, 1979-2011

This series contains contact sheets, negatives, slides, programs, promotional materials (postcards, fliers, and posters), photographs, newspaper reviews and articles, press releases, production list, script, business information, and correspondence. Materials range from 1979 to 2011, with a gap between 1984 and 1992. A majority of the materials from 1979-1984 are newspaper clippings – reviews and articles pertaining to the program, its facilities, and productions. From the 1992 to 2003 year, many productions have contact sheets, slides, photographs, or negatives. The later materials are almost solely promotional. Any production that had more than one type of related material (i.e. postcards and programs, fliers, press releases, or reviews) received its own folder, while productions that were only represented by a postcard, flier, or program on its own were grouped together by school year.

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Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of their creation. Files concerning student records are restricted for 75 years. Please see container list for exact box and folders.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); School of the Arts records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed 2010 September Lea Osborne

Papers cataloged 2010 September Lea Osborne

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion September 14, 2010 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-09-14 File created.
    2010-09-20 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Chapin, SchuylerPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Administration.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Dept. of Fine Arts--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Dept. of Music--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Faculty of Fine Arts.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--School of the Arts.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--School of the Arts.--Writing Division.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Students.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Theatre.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Translation Center.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Urban Center.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Nines, GraftonPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Taylor, Davidson, 1907-1979PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

Department of Fine Arts

The Department of Music was established within the Faculty of Philosophy in 1896. Six years later the department was established as an independent School of Music under the Division of Fine Arts (which included the School of Architecture).

The Department of Fine Arts was established in 1921. The original goal was to allow the students to become familiar with aspects of architecture, painting, sculpture, and any related scholarly work in those fields. The first course that was offered was a general survey of western art from antiquity to the Renaissance period. The purpose, according to a history of the department, was "to acquaint those students whose programs would permit no more than a single course in Fine Arts with the outstanding names, monuments, and concepts in the arts, and to provide a framework for more intensive exploration in the several branches of the Fine Art..." Intermediate-level courses that allowed students to study in more depth were also established. An example of this would be Italian Renaissance Painting.

While the department steadily grew, its success rested on the economy. In other word, the economic outlook affected student interest in these fields and thus, the department size. Another factor affecting the department was a changing view of education and focus at Columbia College. As the liberal arts program evolved, the changes naturally affected specialized departments within the college. By the late 1930s, however, collaboration between Humanities and the Departments of Music and Fine Arts balanced out some of the inequalities. The focus of the department also solidified. In the 1950s, the department increased adding more faculty members in order to handle the growing amount of students.

The Arts Center Program, a forerunner to the School of the Arts, was never realized as such. Instead, Columbia created the Program in the Arts in 1958, which took over responsibility for the Schools of Dramatic Art and Painting and Sculpture. The Committee on the Arts administered the instruction of the Program in the Arts and advised on the Arts Center and the creation of the School of the Arts. The Trustees of Columbia University established the School of the Arts to take over the responsibilities of the Program of the Arts in December 1965. The School of the Arts was created with the intention of consolidating the many courses in the arts that had been offered at Columbia since the late nineteenth century.

Davidson Taylor

Davidson Taylor was born in 1907 in Tennessee. He received a B.A. in 1927 from Mississippi College and a Th.M. in 1930 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to Columbia University, Taylor worked at CBS beginning as an announcer for the Philharmonic and held various posts including the Director of the Music Division and ending as Vice President. After that, Taylor had been at NBC as Vice President in charge of news, public affairs, and sports and was also a consultant to the Lincoln Center Committee for the New York Public Library. In 1959, Columbia asked Taylor to be the Director of the Arts Center. Even though the Arts Center was never realized, Taylor spent many years fund-raising for the Center. In 1963, he became the Chairman of the Committee on the Arts, the administration committee of the Program of the Arts. In December 1965, when the School of the Arts took over the instructional responsibilities of the Program of the Arts, Taylor became director, and later dean in 1969, of the newly established School. He became Special Assistant to the President for Education in the Arts in September 1971. Taylor retired from Columbia University in 1975 and died in July 1979.

Grafton Nunes

Grafton Nunes worked for Columbia University for twenty-two years. He received his B.A. in English and Religion from the College of the Holy Cross, his M.F.A. in Film History, Theory, and Criticism from Columbia, and his M.Phil in Theater History and Film Studies from Columbia. Nunes first began working at Columbia as the administrative assistant for the Film Division. In 1985, he was hired as a lecturer in the theatre division. He taught until 1988 when he was promoted to Assistant Dean. In 1990, Nunes was named Associate Dean of the School of the Arts. Besides his work in academia, Nunes was an active film writer and producer.

Translation Center

The Translation Center was founded in 1972 by Frank MacShane (a writing professor in the School of the Arts), Robert Payne, and William Jay Smith. Since its foundation it has been governed by a board of literary translators. The mission of the Center is to increase "the number of works available in English from foreign literature..." By doing so, the Center makes "the American public aware of the concerns that are common to peoples of the world." To accomplish this, the Center has three major outputs. It grants $10,000 each year in awards to literary translators, it publishes twice a year Translation a magazine filled with poetry, nonfiction, and contemporary fiction translated into English, and it operates a Publishing Advisory Service. Although the Translation Center is housed on campus, it is funded primarily through grants. The School of the Arts does, however, provide some financing of the Director's position.

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