152  ·  Representative Documents:  Artifact Collection Descriptions
Columbia University
Dramatic Museum Realia
CU Libraries Exhibitions | Dramatic Museum Realia
https://exhibitions.cul.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/realia[12/10/12 4:35:38 PM]
CU Home Libraries Home Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Dramatic Museum Realia
Puppets: Burma
Puppets: China
Puppets: England
Puppets: France
Puppets: Ghana
Puppets: India
Puppets: Indonesia
Puppets: Italy
Puppets: Japan
Puppets: Mexico
Puppets: Russia
Puppets: Thailand
Puppets: Turkey
Puppets: United States
Puppets: Unknown
Masks: Africa
Masks: Congo
Masks: Gabon
Masks: Guatemala
Masks: Indonesia
Masks: Italy
Masks: Ivory Coast
Masks: Japan
Masks: Liberia
Masks: Mexico
Masks: New Guinea
Masks: Nigeria
Masks: North America
Masks: Sri Lanka
Masks: Thailand
Masks: United States
Masks: Zaire
Stage Models: Historical
Stage Models: Set
James Brander Matthews (1852–1929), America’s first professor of dramatic literature, created a Dramatic
Museum at Columbia in 1911 to supplement his teaching. He insisted that material objects and images were
crucial to understanding drama, and that theater knew no geographical or chronological bounds. The differences
in national style visible on the contemporary stage had their origins, he argued, in ancient local rituals and
religious practice. So in addition to considerable manuscript collections and a large collection of printed books,
the Dramatic Museum included 34,500 theatrical portraits (prints and photographs); 2,350 speech recordings;
35,000 eighteenth-, nineteenth- , and twentieth-century playbills; approximately 600 artworks, including
costume and scenic designs and posters; 392 puppets and 128 masks; 12 models of historical theaters; and 29
stage sets.
The Museum was formally dissolved and its collections dispersed in 1971. By the 1990s, the collections had all
gravitated to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). Manuscripts and printed books have been assimilated
into our collections as a number of archival collections and as individual items cataloged into the online catalog,
CLIO. Later, the posters, programs, playbills, subject files, lantern slides, scrapbooks, and portraits were made
into the Dramatic Museum Ephemera collection.
Now, thanks to a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, RBML is creating a new collection and finding
aid. Dramatic Museum Realia consists of puppets, masks, theater models and stage sets. The puppets and masks
have all been photographed, and these images are presented here.
The puppets come from around the world: Africa, Burma, China, England, France, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy,
Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, Russia, and the U.S. There are 40 large (over five feet tall) shadow puppets
and approximately 350 other puppets, including six oversize marionettes made by the prominent artist Remo
Bufano. Most were collected by the 1930s; many date from the nineteenth century. The masks have a similar
range: they come from Africa, Ceylon, Europe, Japan, Java, Mexico, North America, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
A card catalog was created for the puppets and masks in the 1960s during what would prove to be the last years
of the Dramatic Museum. We have taken what information we could from the catalog cards, supplemented by the
Museum’s office files, and past exhibition labels, and edited it.
We now ask those who view the online images to send corrections and additions to these descriptions, via the
easy “send feedback” boxes on the pages for the individual items. We will use the information you send to correct
and augment the data presented. The email we receive will automatically tell us the item number you are
Thank you for your help!
Exhibit Curator
Jane Siegel, RBML; Libraries Digital Program Division
Puppets: Burma »
Puppets: China »
Puppets: England »
Puppets: France »
Puppets: Ghana »
Dramatic Museum Realia
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