The Leon Levy Foundation Archives and Catalogues Program
The Foundation’s archives and catalogues program helps arts and humanities institutions care for and use the important contents of their archives and store rooms, with the ultimate goal of making them more available to historians, writers, film-makers, and other scholars. Among the organizations that have received support are:
The New York Philharmonic digitized about 1.3 million pages of material — marked scores, letters, programs, publications, and so on — from its Archives, making them available to scholars and the public over the Internet. The grant covers the “International Era,” from 1943 to 1970, and the materials became fully available in February, 2013 (here). This is the first phase of a long-range project to digitize almost the entire Philharmonic Archives. This project stemmed from an earlier Foundation grant to the Philharmonic, which supported the assessment of its entire eight million-item collection of paper materials that record the orchestra’s history since its founding in 1842.
With the largest Leon Levy Archives Grant to date, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton has established the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, which is collecting, processing and making accessible papers of many distinguished scholars who have worked there. Founded in 1930, IAS is an independent academic institution that is regarded as one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry; this institutional archive will allow the papers of its luminaries to remain together.
Following a multi-year grant extended in 2007, The Morgan Library & Museum in 2012 was awarded a three-year grant to continue the upgrading of the catalogue of its important collection of historic and literary manuscripts, including works by Edward Gibbons, Charles Dickens, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Bronte sisters. The new dramatically improved records and descriptions allow scholars to access portions of the collection that had previously been unknown, and have made possible such exhibitions as the wildly successful “Jane Austen: A Woman’s Wit” in 2009 and “Charles Dickens at 200″ in 2011.
At left is a letter written in 1808 by Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra. In it, she says (among many other things) that she is not enjoying Walter Scott’s latest work, Marmion, an epic poem about a sixteenth-century battle between the English and the Scots, although she suspects she should be.
With a three-year grant awarded in 2012, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is cataloging and developing finding aids for the papers of its directors and senior staff from the 1870s to the 1990s as well as the institutional records of the museum’s Costume Institute from the 1940s to the 1990s. Both catalogues will eventually be posted online.
The top of a letter to the museum’s first president is at left.
After evaluating the status of archives held by five National Park Service sites in Manhattan, including Federal Hall, with one grant, the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy is using a second Leon Levy Archives Grant to process these collections and make them accessible. The grant will also cover the costs of developing a web catalog and features, like Artifact of the Month, designed to stimulate interest and research in these historical collections. The temporary web portal, the Conservancy’s American History Archives, is live and regularly adding content.
At left is a detail from the deed to the home in Westmoreland Country, Virginia, purchased by George Washington’s grandfather in 1695. Washington was born there in 1732.
The Museum of Modern Art‘s archives is being supported by two two-year grants from the Foundation. One paid for the processing of records from the legendary art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who moved to New York from Paris during World War II. Rosenberg handled major works by many of the great artists of the 20th Century, including Picasso, Matisse, Leger, and Braque.
The second grant is allowing MoMA, for the first time, to organize and process the institutional records of P.S. 1, the alternative art space in Queens that has given breakthrough exhibitions to many contemporary artists. It is also supporting MoMA’s efforts to undertake an oral history of P.S. 1. Read about some findings in those archives, about P.S. 1′s earliest days, on the MoMA blog.
A three-year grant will help the New York City Ballet preserve the original tapes of rehearsals and performances from the 1980s to the present: some 17,000 hours of moving images that show the ballets, dance aesthetic and artistic standards of George Ballanchine, Lincoln Kirstein, and Jerome Robbins, among others, and the work of dancers like Peter Martins, Suzanne Farrell and Jacques D’Amboise. The images will also be ditigitized and eventually made available to the public on the NYCB website.
The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project is using its three-year grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to digitize 80,000 pages of primary-source documents copied from the once-secret archives of Russia, China, Mongolia and former East Bloc countries. Many of these documents have again been blocked to scholars and the public, leaving CWIHP the sole source of a resource critical to the understanding of this important period.
With a three-year grant from the Foundation, the Center for Jewish History, the home of five preeminent Jewish institutions dedicated to history, culture, and art, catalogued some 1,200 linear feet of archives from many collections that document the lives of many Jews in America.
In spring, 2010, the Foundation gave another three-year award that will enable the Center to process thousands of linear feet of its archival collections, to create an institutional archive, and to formally assess the preservation needs of the collections. The grant will create the Shelby White & Leon Levy Archival Processing Laboratory as a dedicated space for this specialized work.
Among the Center’s treasures is the handwritten manuscript of Emma Lazarus’s renowned poem, “The New Colossus” (at left), which is part of the American Jewish Historical Society’s archives at CJH.
Poets House used a two-year grant to complete the online cataloguing of its collection of books, literary journals, chapbooks, and other publications that together form the largest, most comprehensive poetry trove available to the public in open stacks anywhere in the U.S.
A second, three-year grant, awarded in spring 2010, allows Poets House to start an institutional archive chronicling its 25-year history, to bring existing catalogue entries up to current standards, and to showcase archival documents in a new exhibition space.