Performing Arts

The Clarke Family Juggling, ca. 1935. Call number: Midwest MS AmCircus: Box 5, Folder 61

What You Can Research

Throughout its history, the Newberry has collected a variety of materials relating to the performing arts, including dance treatises, theater programs, broadsides, and the papers of dancers, journalists, and performing arts critics.

With a focus on Chicago and the Midwest, our dance collections encompass more than 3,200 books and periodicals on dance history, as well as over 80 manuscript collections from dancers, dance companies, dance schools and studios, and other dance affiliates. At the core of this collection are the personal papers and research collection of dance critic Ann Barzel. The collection also includes the archival records of prominent Chicago dance companies like Hubbard Street Dance Company, Chicago City Ballet, and Joel Hall Dancers.

Our music collections harmonize with other areas of study at the Newberry, including medieval and early modern history and the history of publishing in Europe and the United States. Music-related materials comprise thousands of music manuscripts, imprints, instructional books, sheet music, and more. Included among these materials are handwritten scores by Mozart, Chopin, Mahler, and Wagner.

The Howard Mayer Brown Collection features numerous liturgical books and opera librettos, along with several psalmodies (Psalms arranged for singing) and hymnodies (compositions of hymns).

In the realm of popular music, the Driscoll American Sheet Music Collection contains more than 80,000 pieces of sheet music published between the 1770s and 1959.

The theater is well represented in our performing arts collections. The Newberry holds several early modern English, French, Italian, and Spanish dramatic texts, particularly the work of 16th- and 17th-century English dramatists like William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Dekker.

English and American broadsides, programs, and playbills are a window onto popular entertainment of the 19th and 20th centuries. A range of archival collections allow researchers to dive into the history of the Chicago theater scene, and a variety of circus related posters, publicity, programs, photographs and memorabilia provide a peek under the big top in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Learn More

Have a Question?

Ask a Librarian

Our reference librarians are here to help you get the most out of your research.

Artists in Residence

Learn about our research fellowships for artists, writers, and other humanists.

Learn More

Adult Education Classes

Jumpstart or elevate your next learning endeavor.

View Classes