Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2005 Newsletter

Simmons Collection Cataloging Complete


Jim Stroud, Helen Adair, Martha Jenks, and
Apryl Sullivan celebrate the completion of the
Simmons project. Photo by Eric Beggs.


An example of the items processed from the
Simmons collections.

Twenty years ago the Ransom Center acquired one of the world's largest collections in costume design, the voluminous archive of the London-based theatrical costumier B. J. Simmons & Company. From 1857 to 1963, Simmons & Co. created immaculately constructed stage costumes, often based on renderings by leading costume designers, for hundreds of theatrical productions in London and the provinces.

In 2002, the Center was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the preservation, arrangement, description, and selected digitization of the Simmons collection. The Center's paper conservation and performing arts curatorial departments were steeped in the treatment and cataloging of the collection for two years, until the project was completed in August 2004.

Almost 34,000 costume designs were cataloged for over 1,000 theatrical productions and 100 films. With the help of 35 volunteers the paper conservation department preserved approximately 12,500 drawings, plots, and patterns in the collection, exceeding the original project goal.

The Center is planning an upcoming online exhibition of 260 items from the Simmons Collection that capture the vast imagery of the London stage over a period of 80 years. The Center's web site will provide unprecedented access to the Simmons Collection for both scholars who visit the Ransom Center and those living thousands of miles away.

The Ransom Center sincerely thanks the NEH for generous support of the project and the HRC staff and volunteers for a job well done.  

-Shelly Whitfield

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