Last month, University of Pennsylvania Libraries announced the newly-digitized and publicly accessible archives of renowned Philadelphia native and contralto Marian Anderson (1897–1993), a world-famous recitalist and interpreter of art songs and spirituals. The collection includes some 2,500 items from Anderson’s personal history, from letters, diaries, and journals, to interviews, recital programs, and private recordings; these now accompany a visual archive of more than 4,000 pictures. The digitization project was funded in 2018 by a $110,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
“The Marian Anderson Archive is one of the most important archival collections housed in the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center, and one of the most frequently used,” said David McKnight, Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, in an email interview with Hyperallergic. “Given the global impact of Marian Anderson’s musical career, there’s high demand from researchers and fans, but it can be difficult for individuals to travel to our physical space to examine the contents of her archive. We realized if we made more content available online there would be more for researchers to draw from — and from anywhere around the globe.”
Not only was Anderson famous for her musical accomplishments, she was also a staunch and vocal public figure in the fight for Civil Rights. After being refused permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform for an integrated audience in Constitution Hall, Anderson performed an open-air concert for 75,000 people on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. She shattered further barriers in 1955, as the first Black singer to perform in a lead role on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.
“Marian Anderson’s excellence as a musician and her excellence of character opened doors for her and for all the American musicians of color who came afterwards,” said April James, Reader Services Librarian at the Kislak Center, and major contributor to the digitization effort, in an email interview with Hyperallergic. “At a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States, she brought Black Americans into the international community as equals, programming music by Black composers in her concerts worldwide.”
The collection materials showcase both Anderson’s marquee public and professional accomplishments, as well as offering insight into her personal life, presenting a well-rounded portrait of an outstanding individual.
“I was surprised to also learn that she worked as a State Department Goodwill Ambassador and delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Committee,” said Andrea Nuñez, Digital Camera Operator who photographed many of the archival materials, in an email interview with Hyperallergic. She continued:
Reading through her journals, I learned about the daily rhythms of her professional life: in one day of journal entries, she wrote that she spent the morning recording at RCA, had lunch at the Russian Tea Room, and then performed at Carnegie Hall in the evening. While not on tour, she led a quiet life at her farm in Danbury, Connecticut. Her journals during those times often focused on everyday happenings. She enjoyed growing her own fruits and vegetables. She loved to write about cooking and recipes. She also raised puppies, which she adored.
Surely this newly enhanced and accessible archive has much to offer students of music, Civil Rights, and the details of daily life from the truly unique perspective of woman who struck a resounding note in history.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.