Curators’ Picks: The Art of Theatrical Design

The following is a feature from the May/June 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Co-curators Daniel Boomhower and Walter Zvonchenko of the Music Division highlight items from the Library’s exhibition, “Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design.” This week is your last chance to stop by the Library to see what’s on display — the exhibition closes Saturday, July 25. You can also check out the exhibition online

td00011. An Imperial Production

Performed before the imperial court of Leopold I in Vienna in 1668, “Il Pomo d’Oro” (The Golden Apple) featured an elaborate set designed by Ludovico Burnacini. “Baroque-era court shows were not just theater, they were manifestations of power,” said Zvonchenko. “The proscenium stage concealed elaborate contraptions, which allowed for fire and brimstone in the sky. It was not unusual for theaters that featured such special effects to burn down.” Music Division

2. Ziegfeld Follies7749341

“John Harkrider designed most of Florenz Ziegfeld’s shows, which were popular on Broadway during the first few first decades of the 20th century,” said Boomhower. “This sheet music cover–demure by Ziegfeld’s standards–presents Irving Berlin’s “Tell Me, Little Gypsy” from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1920.” Music Division

77493913. Designing Women

Set designers Elizabeth Montgomery and Peggy Clark, who collaborated under the name “Motley,” were “trailblazers as women became more involved in show production and management, as well as other theater occupations,” said Zvonchenko. Pictured here is their watercolor design for the Agnes DeMille Dance Theatre’s 1953 tour. Peggy Clark Collection, Music Division

4. Oliver Smith’s “My Fair Lady”td0041

This watercolor and pen-and-ink set design depicts the scene in which Professor Henry Higgins discovers Eliza Doolittle selling flowers outside London’s Covent Garden opera house. “Smith was the first person hired for Lerner and Loewe’s 1956 production of ‘My Fair Lady,'” said Boomhower. “Before the director, before the cast–they knew who they wanted to design it.” Oliver Smith Collection, Music Division; Works of Oliver Smith © Rosaria Sinisi

Detail of the Grand Hotel set piece in "Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design" exhibition, March 20, 2015. Photo by Shawn Miller.

5. Tony Walton’s “Grand Hotel”

“This is the 3-D model of Tony Walton’s stage set for the 1989 production of ‘Grand Hotel,’ which was designed without an orchestra pit out front for Broadway’s Martin Beck Theatre,” said Boomhower. “We wanted to exemplify the idea of spectacle. The scenic designer is a co-director. Design tells you how the show moves.” Tony Walton Collection, Music Division; reproduced by permission of Tony Walton

“First Among Many”

(The following is a story featured in the Library of Congress Gazette, the staff newsletter, written by editor Mark Hartsell.) The printing press that helped spread world-changing ideas of revolution, liberty and self-governance through early America grew from a humble beginning: a small, error-filled book of religious devotion, produced by a locksmith for settlers forging […]

“Make Speedy Payment”: Women, Business and George Washington

(The following is a guest blog post by Julie Miller, early American historian in the Manuscript Division.) In 1766, Philadelphia shopkeeper Rebecca Steel advertised that she had for sale “Dry Goods, Bohea, Green, Hyson, and Congo Teas &c. as usual, at the most reasonable Rates,” and also “a Parcel of fine silks” that she would […]

Curator’s Picks: American Women Poets

The following is an article from the March/April 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, in celebration of both Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April). The issue can be downloaded in its entirety here. American history specialist Rosemary Fry Plakas highlights several women poets whose works are represented in the […]

Celebrating Women: Women’s History on Pinterest

(The following blog post is by Jennifer Harbster, a science research specialist and blogger for the Library’s Science, Technology, and Busines blog, “Inside Adams.” Harbster also helped create the Library of Congress Women’s History Month board on Pinterest.) March is designated as Women’s History Month and this year the National Women’s History Project has selected […]

Library in the News: February 2015 Edition

The Library’s big headline for February was the opening of the Rosa Park Collection to researchers on Feb. 4, which was also the birthday of the civil-rights icon. “A cache of Parks’s papers set to be unveiled Tuesday at the Library of Congress portrays a battle-tested activist who had been steeped in the struggle against […]

Here Comes the Sun: Seeing Omens in the Weather at Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration

(The following is a guest post by Michelle Krowl, Civil War and Reconstruction Specialist in the Manuscript Division. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, for a limited time [March 4-7, 2015] the Library of Congress will display both the four-page manuscript copy and the reading copy of the address in the Great Hall […]

A Sense of Purpose: Organizing the Rosa Parks Collection

(The following is a guest post written by Meg McAleer, senior archives specialist in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.) Archivists have wonderful jobs. Four colleagues – Kimberly Owens, Tammi Taylor, Tracey Barton and Sherralyn McCoy – and I shared nods of understanding, delight and awe often during the last two months of 2014 as […]

A Jefferson Book, Rediscovered in Law Library

(The following is a story written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.) A tiny, handwritten “T” at the bottom of page 113 offered a clue that this book – long part of the Law Library collections – needed a new home: the permanent exhibition of Thomas Jefferson’s library. […]

Instrumentally Yours

The late 19th century gave rise to some truly imaginative, public-minded Americans. We all know about the Thomas Edisons, the Henry Fords, the Garrett Morgans. But there were others who, while not household names today, lived very interesting lives and left behind fascinating legacies. Among these we find Dayton C. Miller, born on a farm […]