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Tap as an American Art Form

Databases for Primary Sources

Libraries & Archives

New York Public Library (NYPL)

*Note - due to COVID-19, NYPL materials held on-site will not be available. Use the digital collections only*

The NYPL Catalog searches the circulating and non-circulating research collections at the New York Public Library's Library for the Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center, including those at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division and the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT).  The TOFT has many archival videos of New York theatre productions that can be viewed at the Library for the Performing Arts by researchers with an appointment.

NYPL's Digital Collections contain many historical resources on dance, including photographs, letters, manuscripts, and videos (note: most videos can only be viewed on-site at the Library for the Performing Arts).

The nearby NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture contains archives and other materials from local black dancers and choreographers, such as Katherine DunhamLavinia WilliamsJean-Léon Destiné, and Arthur Mitchell.


Barnard Archives & Special Collections

Barnard Library Archives & Special Collections contain college dance department recordsprograms, and moving images from 1925-2011 (all recent videos of productions are in the dance department), as well as personal archives such as the Ntozake Shange papers. Collections and finding aids are searchable in CLIO.

The Barnard Archives' Digital Collections includes photographs, the Annual & Mortarboard, student publications, the Barnard Bulletin, and others.


Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscripts Library (RBML)

The Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library contains archivesoral histories, and materials from dancers and choreographers such as Arthur Mitchell.


Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)'s Hamm Archives contains information on BAM as well as dance and the arts in the surrounding Brooklyn community. Their collection includes programs, scrapbooks, photographs, posters, and ephemera. Check the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive for materials accessible online. Videos of BAM productions are available at the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts.


The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has many collections relating to dance, including streaming media examples, drawings, documents, and secondary essays. Each collection contains bibliographies for related resources. Collections include:


Data & Statistics

Common Sources of Data

These are some of the most useful sources with the most relevant data pertaining to the performing arts. For help in interpreting, analyzing, visualizing, or presenting data, contact Barnard's Empirical Reasoning Center (ERC).


Databases for facts

Arts Reports

Financial Information

Foundation Center 990 Finder provides an access point to look up publicly stored tax records of non-profits, especially useful for seeing more detailed information on the finances of a dance company or dance organization. You can normally see the past three years of an organization's taxes. Keep in mind the most recent tax information will probably be at least a year old.

You won't need all of the information on a 990, you'll mostly be looking at revenue, expenses, employees, gifts and grants, programs, board members, and so on.These two pages have useful information on decoding the 990 forms.

Interviews & Websites as Primary Sources


Interviewing someone associated with a theatre or organization can be very useful for primary source research, but it's important to prepare. The Purdue Online Writing Lab has a helpful page on how to prep for and conduct an interview. Research already existing interviews with this person, so you don't repeat questions that are easily found - you want to be cognizant of their time.


Deep-searching a Website

Advanced Google Search

Use this to search within a website. You can limit to a particular website or domain in the "site or domain" field. For example, try the word "grant" along with the name of the organization to see if they received money from a grant.

  • Enter .edu to look at school websites - especially helpful for finding programs with theatres and schools.
  • Enter .org to look at non-profit organizations, like the Mellon, Carnegie, and Shubert foundations that often provide arts grants.
  • Enter .gov to explore US Government websites, such as the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Wayback Machine

From the Internet Archive, the Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the internet, consisting of browsable snapshots of over 240 billion URLs. This is an ideal way to find historical production information about a company or group. Use the "Save Page Now" feature to capture a website as it appears now for use as a trusted citation in the future.