Joseph Urban Stage Design Models & Documents
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Columbia University Libraries

About the Joseph Urban Papers Stabilization & Access Project

A joint effort of Columbia University Libraries' Preservation Division,
the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Libraries Digital Program Division


The NEH-funded Joseph Urban Stage Designs Stabilization and Access Project of 2002-2004 focused on materials relating to Urban's New York theater career from 1914-1933, specifically the documentation of his productions for the Ziegfeld Follies and other theater producers, and his productions for the Metropolitan Opera. The archives of these productions contained many thousands of documents, photographs, sketches, technical drawings, and watercolors, as well as the actual stage models. Some 61 of the models remained fully assembled when acquired by Columbia, while 281 models had been collapsed by the Urban studio into one or more flattened bundles each.


Selection for Digitization.  The decision was made to scan every flat document that would fit on the equipment available in the Columbia University Libraries Reprography Laboratory. Exceptions were made in three cases where items listed in the finding aid were not scanned. First is duplicate items, and second is lengthy printed matter, for instance libretti. The covers and title pages were scanned but not the texts. Third is all materials over 11.5 x 17". The main category of items not scanned was the technical drawings, many of which were folded and extremely fragile, so that digitization in any case would not have been possible without conservation action to flatten and repair the items.

Many of the watercolors were too large to be digitized in house, but 4x5 color transparencies had been made of almost all of them during a previous project. These transparencies were scanned and added to the image collection, along other miscellaneous 4x5 transparencies that had been made previously.

Finally, the 61 assembled, three-dimensional stage models were photographed and these photographs were digitized. Each model is shown from a number of angles and in many cases important details were also photographed.

Other Images: Columbia's digital collection includes a small number of images from other series in the Urban Collection made for researchers, exhibits, and publications. These images were also added to the Urban finding aid.

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Last update: 07/14/14
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