Guide to resources for researchers in the history of performance

Produced as part of the workshop held October 29-30, 2015 in New Orleans:

Performances, Archives and Repertories

in the Francophone Circum-Atlantic World


Calinda by François Aimé Louis Dumoulin (1783)

Watercolor, Musée historique de Vevey

This partial list includes resources that workshop participants found useful in their research: printed images, books and manuscripts, scores, photographs, film, video and sound recordings; newspapers, parish records.

Archives are listed by geographical area and not by area of specialization or content of holdings.

A list of contributors to this guide, all participants at the workshop held at Tulane University and the HNOC in October, 2015, can be found at the end of the document. Whenever possible, we have listed a contact person whom we found helpful in our work.

The guide reflects the interests of researchers working on the history of performance in the Francophone circum-Atlantic world from the 17th-20th centuries.

Resources in New Orleans and Louisiana

Participants recommend checking the online presence for the digital collection first, but be aware that many documents and photographs are not digitized.

Vertical files on jazz musicians and performance venues are particularly rich and not yet digitized.

Access the museum’s digitized collections here!

This website, the Louisiana Digital Library, is a valuable resource for a number of Louisiana repositories and museums.

For research appointments, contact Erin Kinchen, 504-568-3659, For information about the Louisiana Historical Center, contact Sarah Elizabeth Gundlach, Curator, 504-568-3660, .

Participants described the staff as extremely helpful and the archive itself very useful for research in the history of musical performance forms.

One participant noted that part of the archivists’ mission is sustained musical influence (keeping music alive), and that there is a piano in the archive. Other participants noted the utility of the Henry Kmen papers which are available from off-site storage but not yet organized.

Contact: Bruce Raeburn

Participants described the HNOC as one of their key sources for material related to New Orleans and Louisiana. There is some information available online but here as elsewhere, it is recommended that researchers go into the archive.

Here, one participant found early photographs of the Carnival Krewe of Zulu from 1921-22.

A participant noted that the major carnival organizations of New Orleans have donated their graphics and visual collections.

Materials to be found here represent a more racially diverse region than those represented in other collections. Public records to be consulted here include: the newspaper, judiciary, police, hospital records, city council minutes, and WPA records.

One participant noted that for researchers working on slave resistance this is the place and that, with prison records and mug shots, there are links to be made between police records and prison records.

Participants urged researchers interested in this material to consult the Police jury records for parishes outside of New Orleans. These archives include secession records, records of sales, instruments and others things that have to do with inheritance, births, etc. Also useful are the Parish newspapers, such as The Mescabe, the newspaper of St. John the Baptist Parish.


Resources elsewhere in the U.S.

Washington, DC

The Library of Congress

  • Dance/Theater Collection and the Film Collection has a high volume of material relative to performance. Segmented collection in different places, but both buildings are on the Mall.

Sometimes material is not catalogued and can be complicated to use. The online inventory is not fully complete.

One participant noted that there is “a lot online” but “If you don’t find it digitally it can still be there.” There’s a lot of material that hasn’t been researched, or used. It is not enough to look online.

Researchers should visit the archive and when possible order in advance the material they want to see so it can be delivered digitally when you arrive. (for example, footage/video of dance).

  • the Alan Lomax collection, with recordings of video (reel to reel film) of “world” or “ethnic” dances, solicited from tourist bureaus all over the world. The Folk Life collection at the Library of Congress has a catalogue of songs and a subject file (you can search by the name of an instrument for example) or search for recordings of songs.


New York, NY

One participant noted that the library is a must for anybody studying dance. There are open stacks that include both books and archival material.

You need a local address and a library card and in some cases you can take material home with you . Videos can be consulted on screens in the library via digital delivery.

One participant noted that in exceptional cases, documents can be found here that, in other archives, are in worse condition. One example was the Mercure Gallant, from the late 17thc and early 18th c.

For images of performances such as social dancing, most of the collection is digitalized, with a function that allows zooming into the images. Participants urge that it is always worth seeing the originals as the digital versions take the image out of its printed context.

For images of performance and social life(mostly British) from the 18th and, 19th centuries. 90% of what’s in the collection has been digitalized.

One participant noted that they are not in New Haven, the collection is housed in Connecticut about 1 ½ hours from the Yale campus, and not accessible via public transportation.


Resources in France


Researchers should consult the website and data base:


  • Salle du Spectacle de la Bibliothèque Nationale (Richelieu)

There is a lot of material on the history of theater, les entrées royales etc.

Of special note is the fonds Rondel with handwritten records of different performances that took place at Versailles, Chambord, etc.

One participant described it as a pleasure to work there.

Contact Person: Joel Hutwohl

  • INA at the BNF (Tolbiac)

This archive has an extraordinary catalogue and includes video archives of every French TV station since 1985. One participant noted that one could find every appearance of a celebrity (sports, performing arts, etc.). Because of copyright issues, material cannot be streamed; researchers must visit the archive.

This tiny library (described by one participant as a “treasure”) at Palais Royal is a part of the Comédie Francaise itself, and thus belongs to the State. Historically, it has been used by the comediens (actors of the Comédie Française, called “sociétaires”) themselves and includes their books, as well as video cassettes, DVDs, etc.

The collection centers on the CF, from 1680 up to beginning of the 20th century.

The corpus includes archives, the registers (receipts and expenses); lists of the “feux” (casting); information on the assemblies. The manuscripts of the souffleurs—(mainly 19th ) century give you the text as it was played. The challenge of the manuscripts is to decode the handwriting, but it is not as difficult as earlier forms (17thc.)

In the collection there are films, VHS and DVDs, but some video cassettes are getting old and are in fragile condition. To view, video must be reserved and cannot be copied.

Hours are somewhat limited and the staff very helpful.

Contact person: Agathe San Juan

One participant found the archive useful for personal accounts of soldiers, the world that they saw in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Letters and reports of ambassadors (for example, Iran end of 18th century), and material on cultural performances. Participants noted that there are three “levees” each day, researchers must call up and wait for materials.


Resources in other locations in France

For people working on the ancien regime, there is a lot on Caraibes, slavery, also archives of 16th and 17th.

One participant noted that for images from the Caribbean and the French Atlantic, Bordeaux is key (also the departmental archive at Nantes).


Resources elsewhere in Europe and the Caribbean:

Annotated catalogue of satirical prints from the British Museum by Mary Dorothy George, includes annotated paragraphs that one participant notes will help researchers “break the codes” of these images. With the images digitalized and the catalogue for information about the image, this constitutes an excellent resource.


Online resources

  • Participants describe the Google Cultural Institute as a good interface with a broad selection of images from existing institutions: for example, images of musicians or dancers in western art, in high resolution and copyright free but not suitable for publications.


Participants recommend Arlette Farge, Le goût de l’archive.

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