Archival Collections

The Barbara Curtis Adachi Bunraku Collection, 1964-2003. 

Creator: 
Adachi, Barbara C., 1924-2004.
Phys. Desc: 
57 linear feet of paper materials, 13,571 slides, 7,571 photographic items including negatives, 71 audio and video materials (with 139 preservation master copies and 139 CDs of the same materials), 89 realia objects.
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Biographical Note

Bunraku, one of the world's most highly developed forms of puppet theater, is an unusually complex dramatic form, a collaborative effort between puppeteers, narrators, and musicians. First developed in the seventeenth century, Bunraku was officially recognized as a "masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 2003. Barbara Curtis Adachi (1924-2004), who lived most of her life in Tokyo, witnessed her first Bunraku performance in 1935, at the age of eleven. Her extensive involvement with the troupe began in the 1960s and continued throughout the rest of her life. She attended over four decades of Bunraku and kabuki performances, conducted over one hundred interviews of performers and craftsmen, and took thousands of photographs of both traditional Japanese theater and crafts. Adachi toured with the National Bunraku Troupe both in Japan and in the United States, appearing with them for demonstrations, lectures, and television performances. Adachi, a former columnist for two Tokyo newspapers, lectured widely on Japanese crafts and theater, and wrote several books including "The Voices and Hands of Bunraku" (1978) and "Backstage at Bunraku" (1985). The Barbara Curtis Adachi Bunraku Collection at Columbia's Starr East Asian Library represents four decades of close contact and respectful collaboration between Adachi and the Japanese National Bunraku Troupe, the leading performance group of Bunraku in the world. Adachi's numerous superb photographs of rehearsals and performances reflect the depth of her understanding and knowledge, as do the other diverse artifacts she selected over the years for inclusion in her collection. The comprehensive combination of visual, audio, and textual materials provide researchers with the foundation for studying all aspects of the Japanese puppet theater in modern times, and for studying these aspects in relation to each other.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains slides, photographs with corresponding contact sheets and negatives, audio and video materials, performance-related printed materials, realia objects and personal papers. Visual, audio, video and printed materials, and realia objects are described at the item level with play titles, production dates, and performer names and other descriptors, if applicable. Personal papers are described at the folder level. 178 plays, 290 productions, and 183 performers of the National Bunraku Troupe are cited in this collection. Visual and printed materials for fifteen Living National Treasures of Japan in Bunraku are also included in this collection.