Photo: Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Grant Will Provide Enhanced Access to Audio and Motion Picture Archives of Dance, Theatre, Music & Recorded Sound


The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has received a $750,000 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. The new grant will help provide enhanced access to many of its audio and motion picture treasures that document the history of the performing arts extending as far back as the early 1900s. 

The archive at the Library for the Performing Arts is filled with audio and video content from all disciplines in performing arts history, and much of it has never been seen by anyone beyond those who first recorded it. Among these files are audio recordings documenting the early days of Lincoln Center Theater, video recordings of Broadway performances made by the Theater on Film and Tape Archive, by important choreographers such as Bill T. Jones, and radio recordings from the beginning of the broadcast era. 

Now, thanks to this transformational gift from the Leon Levy Foundation, provided over the next three years, the Library for the Performing Arts will fully describe and catalog 7,500 of those digitized items so they can be connected to our Digital Collections platform, and eventually made usable while respecting the rights of the creators. 

“The Leon Levy Foundation and our dear friend Shelby White have played a transformative role in providing critical access to the archives of institutions around the country, and so much more,” said Anthony W. Marx, president of The New York Public Library. “We are grateful for their support in helping provide enhanced access to the unique treasures of the audio and moving picture collection at the Library for the Performing Arts.”

“Countless scholars, researchers, artists, and creators rely on the Library for the Performing Arts to be a convening space to discover, share, and create works of art.  The Leon Levy Foundation’s generous support will provide increased access to one-of-a-kind and rare audio and visual recordings that many still don’t know exist or are presently difficult to find,” said Jennifer Schantz, the Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “This grant will allow the Library for the Performing Arts to fulfill its mission to increase accessibility to its vast archive.”

Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, said, “The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center showcases iconic performances across the entire range of music, dance and theater. We are delighted that the Leon Levy Foundation can help people around the world access this amazing digitized collection.” 

In recognition of this extraordinary gift, the Library for the Performing Arts will name this initiative the Shelby White and Leon Levy Initiative to Press Play on the Audio and Motion Picture Archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

About the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Located at Lincoln Center, the Library for the Performing Arts has one of the most extensive performing arts collections in the world. The Library is an archive of dance, theatre, music, and recorded sound, and our close to eight million archival items date back to the 11th Century and include Ludwig Beethoven’s hair, Clara Schuman’s nibbled pencils, a 15th-century dance treatise of dance master Guglielmo d’Ebreo da Pesaro, Anna Pavlova’s pointe shoes, the original set model for In the Heights, and the archives of many masters, including Bill T. Jones, Hal Prince, Jerome Robbins, Arturo Toscanini, and many more.

About the Leon Levy Foundation
The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from Leon Levy’s Estate by his wife and Founding Trustee, Shelby White. The Foundation continues Leon Levy’s philanthropic legacy and builds on his vision, supporting the preservation, understanding and expansion of knowledge in the ancient world, Arts and Humanities, Nature and Gardens, Neuroscience, Human Rights and Jewish Culture. To learn more visit: www.leonlevyfoundation.org