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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 1810

Harvard Theatre Collection original drawings collection


Contains portrait, artist, scene, and theatre drawings and sketches related to theatrical and dance productions, collected by the Harvard Theatre Collection.


  • circa 1668-1975

Language of Materials

English, French

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

A portion of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


4 linear feet (three flat boxes and 215 oversize folders)

Contains portrait drawings, sketches, and a few paintings. Series I includes portraits of figures from the history of the performing arts, including actors, dancers, comedians, playwrights, and similar figures. Some of the portraits are posed and seated, while others are in costume and potentially were created for promoting or commemorating productions. Series II contains drawings and sketches, as well as costume portraits, relating to theatrical productions but not necessarily portraying single figures or groups from the performing arts. Some include Christmas cards sent to acts, original drawings, caricatures, and parodies relating to productions or types of performances, as well as some unidentified portrayals of abstracted dance figures. Series III contains original sketches and drawings of scenes and casts from theatrical productions, mainly from the nineteenth century, as well as a single book design. Series IV includes drawings of theatres in Boston, London, New York, and Norwich, mainly from the eighteenth and nineteen centuries. Most of these drawings include depictions of theatres’ exteriors and contexts within city settings, while one interior drawing is included.

Biographical / Historical

The Harvard Theatre Collection was founded in 1901 through the efforts of Professor George Pierce Baker, and collects documentary materials pertaining to the history of the performing arts, including theatre, dance and ballent, and opera and musical theatre, among other areas. Original drawings relating to the performing arts have been collected throughout the Harvard Theatre Collection’s history, and include a range of types and subject matters, including portrait drawings of actors, dancers, playwrights, and other figured from the history of the arts; artist drawings of individuals and groups relating to theatre; drawings of scenes and casts of productions; and drawings of theatres, mainly in London and New York, New York.


Collection is arranged into the following four series: portrait drawings, artist drawings, scene drawings, and theatre drawings.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository, pfd (P1.C1.05.10 - P1.C1.05.14 [Folders 1-187, 215]), ppf (P1.01.05.15 - P1.01.05.18 [Folders 188-214])

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Various accessions at various dates, some unknown. Accession information is noted in the series and file description as available. Many of the items in Series IV are attributed to the E.J. Wendell Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2018.

Harvard Theatre Collection Original Drawings Collection, circa 1668-1975, (MS Thr 1810): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 June 19
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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