More than 70,000 playbills, posters, and ephemera from the history of the Brooklyn Academy of Music — from as far back as the Civil War era — are now available through the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, which opened to the public on Tuesday.
The archive has been in development for several years, paid for by a $1 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the same organization that funded the New York Philharmonic’s digital collection.
Materials from the archive include press clippings and posters from the Brooklyn Academy’s opening days in the 1860s, when Mary Todd Lincoln was in attendance, as well as items from the institution’s often-adventurous performances by artists including the tenor Enrico Caruso, the choreographer Pina Bausch and the “Einstein on the Beach” collaborators Philip Glass and Robert Wilson.
Roughly 40,000 artists are represented in the archive. And the collection has been organized so that the 70,000 items are all linked to the names of the people involved. Researchers — or anyone interested — can create personalized collections based on specific artists, companies or eras.
“Performance is an ephemeral, impermanent experience,” Sharon Lehner, the director of the Brooklyn Academy’s Hamm Archives, said in a statement. “It’s also typically collaborative, formed from a web of people and their ideas. We wanted to create a tool that helps users to understand and visualize the complexity of performance.”