About our collections

The Minnesota Orchestral Association 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. Since that time, the collection has received additional material annually. The archives contain scrapbooks that detail the first fifty years of Orchestra history; correspondence from several offices within the Association; thousands of photographs of conductors, guest artists, staff and board members; financial records; programs and other publications; and recordings in a variety of formats. In addition, there are subgroups of material relating to the construction of Orchestra Hall in 1973-74; extensive documentation of tours conducted by the orchestra throughout the United States and the world (the Orchestra has been called the "Orchestra on Wheels"); and numerous special events including anniversary celebrations, Metropolitan Opera appearances, Sommerfest, and Cabaret Pops. More detailed information about the Orchestra's archives are available in the Series List.

Among other music groups represented in the archives are the St. Paul Opera Association, and the St. Paul Philharmonic Society (forerunner of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra). Related to these are the records of the Minneapolis Musicians Association, which was the primary trade union for many years. The collection spans the years from 1911 to 1967, and holds voluminous correspondence and financial files, plus minutes of Board of Directors' and Executive Board meetings. The St. Paul Musicians Association is represented as well, by minutes of the board of directors, membership directories, and copies of Fanfare and St. Paul Musician, their publications (1910-1997).

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 management of the theatre has regularly deposited records in the Performing Arts Archives since 1965. Every play performed on the Guthrie mainstage since its first season in 1963 is represented by prompt books, production notes, costume bibles, photographs, audio tapes containing background music or sound effects, and set designs. For some productions, there are also video tapes of portions of the productions themselves. The administrative files include correspondence, financial information, and other material associated with the behind-the-scenes operation of a complex regional theatre. In addition, the collection contains administrative and artistic records documenting productions at The Other Place and the Guthrie 2 -- small experimental theatres in Minneapolis that existed in the 1960s and 1970s apart from the main stage.

Feminist theatres are represented by the large and very rich assemblage of records of At the Foot of the Mountain. This group flourished for nearly 17 years in Minneapolis, closing its doors in 1991. Some 125 ft. of administrative and artistic records are now held by the Performing Arts Archives, including correspondence, financial data, scripts and prompt books, photographs, videos of many productions, clippings, and scrapbooks.

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, the New Dance Ensemble Papers, and the Jazzdance Papers.

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.

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 at the Scenery Collections Database.

Creative Theatre Unlimited was founded in St. Paul in 1981 to work with community and educational groups to bring drama and other arts to people who might not experience them. The papers document work with the Hmong, Native American, and handicapped and senior citizens and include administrative records, material relating to various artistic programs, publications, video and audio tapes (including oral histories with Hmong refugees), and photographs.

The papers of theatre director, writer, and administrator Robert Corrigan (1927-1993) contain correspondence, clippings, manuscripts of his writings and translations, and photographs illustrating his career at such institutions as California Institute of the Arts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and University of Texas-Dallas.

The papers of several locally-prominent individuals are also in the archives. Among them are: Frederick Gaines, a playwright whose work has been staged at the Guthrie 2 and The Other Place as well as several other regional theatres; and Glyde Snyder, whose papers chronicle the business life of a very colorful and vigorous local producer of vaudeville entertainment in Minneapolis from the 1930s to the 1960s. The collection is especially rich in publicity photographs and accompanying descriptions of hundreds of acts, plus many costume and prop catalogs.

Film education is represented by the records of the University Film Society (1962-1998) and Film in the Cities (1973-1993). Both of these groups specialized in public showings of foreign and domestic independent film productions. Film in the Cities also worked extensively with Twin Cities public schools to train and assist students in creating their own motion pictures and videos.

The Performing Arts Archives also holds some 6,500 motion picture posters and lobby cards from 1944 to 1969. Complementing these are more than 15,000 still photographs from films made between 1942 and 1969.

Collection Highlights