Collection highlights

Explore highlights from the Performing Arts Archives in the areas of music, theater, and dance.


The Minnesota Orchestra archives are among the most complete of any major symphony in the country. The Minnesota Orchestra, known as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1903 until 1968, began depositing its records at the University in 1977. The Performing Arts Archives also preserves the records of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Minnesota Opera (formerly Center Opera) and the St. Paul Opera Association.

The papers of notable composers such as Dominick Argento, Eric Stokes, and composer/conductor Stanislav Skrowaczewski also comprise the collection. 

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The Guthrie Theater records constitute another major element of the archives. The theatre company was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis in 1962 and has consistently ranked among the top repertory playhouses in America since that time. The Performing Arts Archives also preserves the records of the Children's Theatre Company, Theater Mu, and Theatre de la Jeune Lune

Feminist theatres are represented by the large and very rich assemblage of records of At the Foot of the Mountain. Additionally, the records of the Creative Theatre Unlimited document the theater's work with the Hmong, Native American, differently-abled, and senior citizens.

The Performing Arts Archives holds a very rich collection of scenic backdrop renderings. It consists of watercolor renderings for theatre and Masonic drops which were created in the studios of Twin Cities Scenic Design Studios, Minneapolis, and the Great Western Stage Equipment Co., Kansas City, Missouri. The Holak Collection contains more than 180 renderings of drops for Scottish Rite temples and may be the most important of its kind. All told, there is a total of almost 1500 drawings in these beautiful and fascinating collections. The images from these three collections are now available online by searching Umedia.

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The archives of the Minnesota Dance Theatre (MDT) are exceptionally comprehensive. The theatre, which opened in 1961, was among the best of the dance companies and schools that have existed in Minneapolis down through the years. The collection not only documents the activities of MDT from its beginning but also its successor, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, which folded in 1988. Other significant dance collections in the Performing Arts Archives include the James Sewell Ballet Archives, Ballet of the Dolls, Ananya Dance Theater, and Jazzdance.

Gertrude Lippincott (1913-1996) was active in dance education and choreography both locally and nationally for many years. Her papers include correspondence, course material, clippings, scrapbooks, and photograph albums. A large collection of her papers also exist at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. Other collections from individual dancers such as John Munger are preserved as well as a collection from dance critic Mike Steele

The Performing Arts Archives also preserves an expansive collection of oral histories from major figures in dance in the Twin Cities.

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To view a list of all the collection guides in the Performing Arts Archives, please visit Performing Arts Archives Collection Guides.