Carnegie Hall has announced the launch of its new online Digital Collections, inviting the general public to search, explore, and download more than 80,000 recently digitized historic items from its archives for the very first time. This initial preview, drawn from the Hall’s legacy collections, offers a window into the richly diverse history of events at the Hall since its opening in 1891, with an emphasis on the Hall’s earliest decades. It includes Carnegie Hall concert programs from 1891–1925; flyers; photographs; correspondence; newspaper clippings; autographs; booking ledger pages; and a select number of promotional films. The goal of this digital initiative is to provide broader public access to the Hall’s archival collections, providing a new way for people to engage with Carnegie Hall’s history and share it with others.
Examples of unique items featured in the preview include a 35mm black and white video of mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel performing at Carnegie Hall in 1953, newly restored and with the addition of captions; a flyer for an all-Richard Strauss program conducted by the composer himself and featuring the United States debut of his wife, soprano Pauline Strauss de Ahna; previously unpublished correspondence from sixty composers including Alban Berg; the complete autograph album of former Carnegie Hall manager Louis Salter with signatures from Arthur Conan Doyle, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Sergei Prokofiev, and Igor Stravinsky; concert booking ledgers spanning more than 50 seasons, including entries for the Carnegie Hall performance by The Beatles in 1964, plus many other historic presentations; and original concert programs that date back to and include Carnegie Hall’s May 5, 1891 Opening Night concert with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The public can now access the Digital Collections Preview for free at collections.carnegiehall.org where they can discover and download items selected for this first release, all classified as either being in the public domain under US laws or without known copyright restrictions. While introducing these first searchable collections, the Archives is asking the public for input on how they wish to engage with the Hall’s history looking ahead. Information gathered from an online survey will assist with refining the user experience and planning for releases of new material in the future.
“Through each of Carnegie Hall’s digital initiatives, we seek to expand the circle of people everywhere that can engage with the Hall and its programs,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director. “The Hall’s history has been an important touchpoint for so many people around the world who love great music. I congratulate Gino Francesconi and his Archives team for their hard work in making these legacy collections more accessible than ever before. We especially send a huge thank you and our deep appreciation to Vartan Gregorian and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Susan and Elihu Rose, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who have been strong advocates and supporters of this project from the very start, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
“The story of Carnegie Hall is fascinating from so many vantage points,” said Gino Francesconi, Director of Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Rose Museum. “The Hall’s collections mirror the evolution of New York City in the 20th century and reflect a myriad of social, cultural, and political developments over the decades. Most importantly—as the Hall has always been the destination for the greatest artists—it provides a sweeping view of how music has developed over the last century, not only in America, but around the world."
In the decades since Mr. Francesconi established Carnegie Hall’s Archives in 1986, more than 300,000 items have been added to the Hall’s collections. This newest project reflects how priorities in the archival field have shifted in recent years to not only include the collection and preservation of materials, but also a focus on digitizing and working toward making artifacts available online to increase access.
“Over the decades, Carnegie Hall’s audience has been so incredibly generous in contributing materials, helping us build this collection,” said Mr. Francesconi. “In making them digitally accessible, it’s exciting to now be able to give something back, inviting everyone to be able to share and explore this remarkable history together.”