Student Snippets


At the Dance Archives

For a few hours every Thursday I have started to go to the archives of Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre (JMBT), which has its facilities in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, a beautiful field stone building in the American Gothic Revival style just off of Harvard Square. There, two other SLIS students and I are taking an inventory before processing the collections, as part of a grant-funded project to process the archives of many of Cambridge's dance companies.

Two weeks ago, my first time seeing the JMBT archives, I knew our goal was ambitious. The collections comprise everything from institutional records, to costumes and props, to old promotional material and performance recordings. They are crammed into four large rooms in different parts of the church, much like I imagine industrial-sized, hastily packed storage lockers to be (if such things exist).

Battling through the dust and teetering piles of boxes, we have to move records around Tetris style to wind our way from item to item before noting it in our spreadsheet.

Admittedly, this style of inventory is challenging and not always fun, but it's getting easier as we continue to work. At the same time, it's very exciting to be involved with this kind of project. There isn't a lot of money for dance heritage, so dance archives are in a grey area where standards are still evolving. Also, companies in Boston and Cambridge have largely been overlooked and overshadowed by those in larger cities. Given these challenges, it's a great feeling to learn alongside more experienced archivists and to be able to contribute to the profession while best practice guidelines are still elastic and being developed.


Above: A corner in the "Nutcracker Room" of the JMBT Archives. 
Photo by Samantha Quiñon, 2015, all rights reserved.