40 Years of Firsts

To catch you up to speed, the past few months we have wanted to turn this blog into a continuing record of ongoing work by other interns in the archive.  Unfortunately, we’ve not figured out the best way to do that yet!  DTH recently launched a new website, and I was hoping we could archive this blog and start a new one.  So perhaps you might see other bloggers contributing to this blog until we find a venue to share the work.

This past Friday night, I was sitting on Facebook and noticed Judy was in Houston installing Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts at the University Museum at Texas Southern University.  I commented on her installation shots, saying I wish I had known she was there.  I’m living in San Antonio right now, a mere 3 hours from Houston, and would have been happy to come lend a hand.  Well, Judy commented right away, and we decided I would come in on Saturday and help.  The installation, unfortunately, was already behind, and while she had several people helping, it was a all-hands-on-deck type of situation!

I left San Antonio around 8, and I worked from 11:30-8:30.  We managed to get all the mannequins dressed!  And I drove back last night, in bed at 12:01.  I’m exhausted and sore, but I’m so glad I got a chance to work with this great exhibition.  It opens later this week and stays up through the end of April.  Please visit their website for more detailed information.  Special thanks to the museum curator Dr. Alvia Wardlaw for bringing this exhibition and providing great hospitality during the installation!  Also thanks to all the Museum Staff, volunteers, and TSU students (especially LaStarsha!) for their help to get everything together.

Rehousing the DTH ballet scores

The second big project remaining after Kat’s departure, which was also contingent on waiting for more supplies to come in, was rehousing the ballet scores.

DTH ballet scores before rehousing

The broken boxes were not providing adequate support or protection for the scores

For years DTH used live music in their company performances and thus their collection of full scores and piano reductions (for rehearsing to) is quite impressive. Some of the ballet scores are not unique to DTH, like Don Quixote or Swan Lake. However, many of the scores, like DTH’s version of Giselle or Tania Leon’s score for Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla, were commissioned by DTH, making the scores unique and valuable items.

During the archival inventory Kat Bell identified the storage conditions of the scores as a large preservation concern.  Libby of DHC agreed that the collection was valuable and immediate preservation intervention was necessary, so she ordered new score boxes that were large enough to fit the scores without bending them and were constructed of strong and safe acid-free paperboard. Once the boxes of new boxes arrived, my job was to make sure the scores were in the proper alphabetical arrangement and re-house them.

Now the scores are in 67 boxes and 8 oversize boxes—they are both physically safe and easy to locate and access.

DTH ballet scores after rehousing

Building for the Future or Archiving With a Hammer!

Hello again! After the fabulous Kat Bell finished her work in the DTH Archives and moved back to Texas, I have been up to Harlem a few times to tie up loose ends. One of the biggest projects remaining to be done was putting up the three large, archaivally-sounds shelving units. Kat did the difficult work of figuring out which areas needed shelves, doing the research into the correct type of shelving for each location, taking specific measurements, and sending all the final order info to Libby at DHC for ordering. I just had to wait until the shelves finally were delivered to DTH and then put them together. Sounds easy, right?

Thankfully Libby paid extra for shipping to have the shelving pieces delivered into the building. DTH needed hefty shelving that could safely hold heavy archival materials—the units are composed of high-quality, sturdy metal, with the side effect that that they are outrageously heavy. Bundled together as they were I could not even lift most of the units. Luckily the deliveryman and one of the DTH dancers who happened to still be in the building at 7pm—Thank you Fred!!!—brought the pieces up to the second floor and laid them out next to the Library. DTH was holding a reception that night on the second floor and needed their hallway to not look like a construction zone. So, the race was on!!

The small unit for next to Judy’s desk in the development office was a prefab kit, which went up quite easily. The biggest difficulty was deciding which hights to have the shelves at.

The two larger, heavy-duty units for Lib 1 and Lib 4 proved to be more of a challenge. The first step was calling Galylord to have them send us an e-mail of the assembly instructions, because my conceptual problem solving was not up to the 3D puzzle of how these pieces go together:

Shelving pieces as delivered… without instructions

Instructions in hand, the assembly went together with a bit of elbow grease. The shelving was industrial grade and could support up to 1,000lbs per shelf! So, each piece was not only sturdily built (a.k.a. heavy) but also the elements needed to be hammered into place to insure that the joints were tightly locked. I think this will be the only time that I ever do archival work with a hammer!!

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With plenty of time to spare before the event, both sets of library shelves were up and ready to be cleaned and filled! While this hopefully is not the permanent home for DTH’s moving image collection, having the boxes of various types of tapes and reels on shelves instead of piled on top of eachother is a huge improvement. Now the records are safe from being damaged/crushed by other heavy boxes and also are much more easily accessible. And the smaller shelving unit finally provides adequate storage space for archival supplies.

February Update

So last week, I had an unplanned encounter with another fellow.  During her research presentation, Rosemary Candelario mentioned her work with Eiko and Koma and the DHC.  I had no idea that the work with their archive had even begun.  When I went to introduce myself after (I was meeting her for breakfast the next day and wanted her to know who she was meeting), she said “I know you!”  She had been reading this blog and working with Patsy on the DHC’s archive project with Eiko and Koma.  Their archive is a very different entity from the other archives we have all worked with, thus Rosemary is providing her expertise as a scholar and a theorist to help realize the artists’ intention and vision.  She too is blogging about her work, and you can find the entries here on Eiko and Koma’s website.

Even though Patsy is also providing her expertise for the Eiko and Koma project, she is still helping out DTH as the last of the supplies arrive and the last of the selected warehouse items are processed.  She’ll be blogging about what’s been going on the last couple of months and posting some pictures, as well.

Finally, I have a bit of sad news to share.  After a brief and sudden illness, my cat Luna passed away on Valentine’s Day.  She is dearly missed.  I mentioned her in my last post and included her picture.  Home is not the same without her, and as much as I wish I could still be in NYC working at DTH, I’m glad I was able to be there for her during her last days.

Life as a Nomad

Happy New Year!  Never thought I would still be contributing to this blog in 2012.  But here I am, and busy as ever.  I was offered a temp position at the library where I went to grad school, so I went from having all the time in the world to working 8-5 5 days a week!  Though I’m still searching for a more permanent position, I’m learning a lot and enjoying my time expanding my skills.  I’m still living out of boxes, but life as a nomad is now my new normal.  I’m thankful for those that have made the past seven months a little easier and a little less nomad-ish.

I found out in late May I would be working at DTH, a mere three weeks before my start date.  Plenty of time, except for a few obstacles:

  • My best friend came in town on a road trip, and I played hostess for a couple of days.
  • My mom had emergency surgery, and I flew to Indiana for a week.
  • My lease was going to run out while I was in NYC, so I had to move out of my apartment.
  • I had to sell my dining room table and chairs.
  • My cat, Luna, needed a place to live.
  • I needed a place to live in NYC.

Luna and me in my old apartment

Luckily, my boyfriend came to the rescue.  He helped me pack up, borrowed his mom’s truck, and made room in his place for all of my boxes, my bed, my couch, and Luna.  Craigslist helped me sell my table and find an awesome sublet.  I packed up a large suitcase, a backpack, and a computer bag, and moved to Washington Heights.

My first sublet was really great.  I was a 30 minute walk/20 minutes by subway from work, I had my own bedroom, an elevator, and 3 great roommates and one cat.  They were extremely friendly, and the woman I sublet from even let me extend from 5 weeks to 7 weeks.  At this point, my extension was up in the air, and my funds were a little low.  My best friend from grad school offered up his couch in Queens, an hour commute to Harlem by foot, bus, and subway, and I stayed there about 2 weeks.  He was in the midst of moving, and his third roommate offered me her room so she could have time to prepare to move.  So I moved to the eastern edge of Bushwick, about 1 hour and 20 mins from Harlem.  We were without internet for a while, but at least Judy lent me her air mattress so I had a bed.  I was there for a month before I needed a break, winter clothes, and a new place to leave.  So I went back to Texas.

I spent less than a month in Texas, including a week when my boyfriend, cat, and I went up to Indiana (15 hour drive).  I packed up some new clothes and arranged to live in the DTH apartments across from the building.  They were occupied during the summer with guest teachers and choreographers, but I came back in October when the DTH Ensemble was on tour.  I was without hot water for a few days, without a working stove for two weeks, and stole internet from who knows where, but at least I had no commute!  I spent about 5 weeks there, a lot less than I had planned for, and was able to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family.  The work wrapped up fairly quickly after Judy and Patsy’s hard work while I was gone, and there was no point in waiting around for our shipments.

I’m not sure about the other fellows’ living experiences, though Patsy moved up to NYC after grad school.  I didn’t think my experience was extremely important, though it does give another viewpoint of life as a fellow outside of the job.  Like I mentioned previously, the DHC Board was extremely interested in this experience.  I’m sure a lot of temporary interns/fellows deal with crazy living situations, but I don’t think it’s something we talk about much.  It’s just expected for people to spend money to work for nothing and gain important  job experience.  Luckily, Libby believes in paying people for their work and works hard to find funding for the fellows and their sites.

So that’s a little view into my life as a nomad/fellow.  The shelves finally made it to DTH, and Patsy should have an update soon with some awesome pictures of her with some tools.

I still need to provide a fuller update on the warehouse, the final report, and some videos.  I promise to have those before 2013.  Hopefully things at DTH are close to a “finish,” and at some point this blog will come to a close.  Thanks to those that are still reading!

And a month later…

Well, this wasn’t the post I was hoping to write next, but since it has been a month, I felt the need to let you all know I’m still around.

I left New York City about a month ago as the onsite work was wrapping up, funds were running low, and I wanted to spend Thanksgiving outside the City.  Since Patsy lives in New York, she’s now the DHC Fellow for DTH onsite.  All that is left is rehousing a few items, but since we are waiting on shipments for shelves, boxes, and other materials, Patsy is only there when needed.

As for me, I’m working on the final report.  Not much to report there.  However, I do still have lots to share, including warehouse photos and some videos from my last day at DTH.  Judy will take pictures once the shelves are in place.

Also, Patsy and I had the pleasure of lunching with the DHC Board my last week.  Of all things, they were quite interested in the logistics of being a fellow/nomad.  While I’ve been thinking of sharing that side of this experience with you, I’ve shied away from it for multiple reasons.  So one of these days you will also get to read about life as a Fellow outside of the archives.  I promise!  And I will update as to what else I’m working on here in Denton, Texas outside of DTH/DHC stuff.

Warehouse Video Tour

A week ago Wednesday, we took a trip to the warehouse.  DTH has had offsite storage for years, and had recently downsized the storage space.  We weren’t quite sure what we were going to encounter, and what would need attention.  Not everything at the warehouse is part of the archive, but the items are still an important part of the organization’s history and the future of the company when it returns in 2012.

I have lots of pictures to share and will write more about our process that afternoon and what comes next.  For now, here is a video tour of our storage space.  Special thanks to Ludovic for getting this video up so quickly on the DHC Vimeo Page.