Aug 6, 2018

The Eastman Theatre Library, in Review

How does a library just vanish? Supplemental information for the Ask the Archivist column in the July-August issue of Rochester Review

Lu Harper, librarian at the Memorial Art Gallery's Charlotte Whitney Allen Library, sent the following mystery: 

One of the books in the Memorial Art Gallery’s Charlotte Whitney Allen Library has the MAG bookplate with the added words, “Presented by the Eastman Theatre Library.” The 1929 MAG Annual Report notes “When the Eastman Theatre Library was discontinued, the Art Gallery Library received many of its finest books, among them a rare edition of Nash's Mansions of Old England." What can you tell me about this mystery library and its books?

You can read the full story in the Review, but provided below are several of the files in the Archives which led to the solution.

Clarence Livingston

Clarence Livingston was building superintendent for the Eastman School of Music, and then assumed responsibility for the entire University. In his autobiography "Itchy Feet: A Sort of Autobiography" (1953), he wrote of the monumental task--bear in mind that in 1930 when the River Campus opened it had only 13 buildings, and the Medical Center was a sliver of its current footprint:

Operating the physical plant of a large university is not life in an ivory tower... It requires a combination of engineering, architectural and public relations skill, a yen for diplomacy and a good measure of common sense and patience.... Miles of sidewalk and roadway must be cleared during winter nights...professors scribble and doodle on acres of blackboards which must be cleaned in readiness for succeeding classes; thousands of doors need oiling, adjustment of automatic door closers or replacement of keys; countless windows to be washed in unending rounds; hundreds of plumbing fixtures with drains to be cleared and faucet leaks stopped; thousands of light bulbs renewed as use burns them out; miles of corridors and acres of floors cleaned and waxed daily; steam provided for innumerable radiators and coal stockpiles maintained against possible delivery failures; repairs to buildings and furniture of every description; regular painting of structures, outside and in, planned without disturbance to inside activities; miles of steam tunnels and underground high pressure piping, with leaks that always develop at most inopportune times. 

Pages from Clarence Livingston's journal marking the creation of an office for "Williams" the art designer, his receipt of keys, and Livingston's transfer of books from the Eastman Theatre library:


The floorplan of the Eastman Theatre. The Sibley Music Library is at the upper right corner.

A library accession book, open to the pages showing Nash's Mansions of Old England (at line 170948).

PDF of the Democrat and Chronicle special edition for the opening of the Eastman Theatre

of the list of books transferred from the Eastman Theatre Library to other University of Rochester libraries.


Post from Melissa Mead John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian

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