Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library presents The Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum at Columbia University, an exhibition of theater posters, prints, photographs, puppets, masks, set models, manuscripts, books, and ephemera. Named for James Brander Matthews (1852ĘC1929), the nation's first professor of drama, the exhibition celebrates the history of one of the oldest theater collections in the United States. The exhibition is on view in the Kempner Gallery of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library through Jan. 31.
Appointed to the Columbia College faculty in 1892, Matthews began collecting theater-related memorabilia in 1911, convinced that the only way to learn about drama was through first-hand acquaintance with artifacts, images, and texts of the theatrical past. Matthews then donated his own collection of theatrical memorabilia to the University to support the burgeoning study of world-wide theater history. He commissioned stage models representing historical periods, collected the scripts and theatrical designs of his contemporaries, gathered more than 30,000 images of actors and entertainers, and purchased masks and puppets from dealers and performers all over the world. Thanks to a generous endowment, additions to the collection were made for decades after Matthews died in 1929.
The exhibition provides an overview of the Dramatic Museum's collections. The items on display were chosen to represent the scope of Matthews' collecting, and include: a five-foot tall marionette of Don Quixote designed by American puppet maker Remo Bufano in 1924 for the premiere of Manuel de Falla's operetta El Retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter's Puppet-Show) ; set and costume designs by Joseph Urban, James Woodman Thompson and Leslie Powell; a set of French Punch and Judy puppets purchased in Paris in 1925, including a character based on Charlie Chaplin; a manuscript of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's School for Scandal ; 19th-century armored Sicilian puppets made for folk performances of the epic poem Orlando Furioso ; and costume sketches by Caspar Neher for a production of Macbeth in the early 1950s.
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library is located on the sixth floor of Butler Library. Exhibition hours through December 16 are: Monday, noon -- 7:45 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. -- 4:45 p.m. During winter intersession Monday hours are noon to 4:45 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday remain the same. The Library is closed Dec. 26 ĘC 30.