Introducing…La MaMa’s New Archival Cataloging Project

Exciting things are happening in the La MaMa archives.

This past January, we were awarded a generous grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as part of their Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program. La MaMa was among 23 institutions to receive funding under this initiative in 2013 (other awardees included the Princeton University Libraries, the Newberry Library, and the George Eastman house; for a full list of this year’s recipients, see CLIR’s site.). Designed to support “innovative, efficient” efforts to improve access to valuable archival collections, CLIR’s “Hidden Collections” project has supported the work of many effective and important archival description projects over its 6-year lifespan.

This grant will make it possible for La MaMa to create an online, searchable catalog of our archival materials – something we’ve never before had the resources to do. For this initial description project, we’re focusing on materials from our early years, 1962-1985. These are among the most requested of all our materials; they also uniquely document an important period in the history of the Off-Off-Broadway movement. Over the course of the next two years (January 2014-January 2016), a team of catalogers will work its way through the photographs, playbills, posters, audiovisual material, and scripts that document La MaMa’s earliest years. By the time we’re done, we will have created a user-friendly, robust database that will help researchers and students make the most of our archival offerings.

As we go, we’ll use this blog as a space to reflect and report back to our community and audiences. We will describe our work, reflect on the challenges that our collection poses to traditional archival practice, and offer glimpses into the treasures in the collection. We will also announce any public events we convene to showcase our efforts and their results. So keep your ears peeled for updates.

In the meanwhile, we’re thrilled to introduce the members of the cataloging team. Working with long time staff and La MaMa-ites Ozzie Rodriguez (the Director of La MaMa’s Archives) and Shigeko Suga (Archives Assistant) are three new staff members—Rachel Mattson (the Project’s Manager) is a historian and archivist with roots in several Brooklyn-based arts and activism collectives; Suzanne Lipkin (a project Cataloger) is a recent graduate from the Pratt Institute’s School of Library and Information Science with experience in archival outreach and reference; and Julie Sandy (a project Cataloger) is an arts archivist, prop master, and stage hand who has worked for almost a decade in and around NYC’s theaters.  We’re also excited to have Tiffany Nixon, the archivist at the Roundabout Theatre, serving as Project consultant. (You can read more about our team here.)

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