From the Archives: the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection is Open for Research!

This is the first blog post in a two part series about processing the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection in the Special Collections & Archives.

Processing the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection, Special Collections & Archives.

The Special Collections & Archives are excited to announce that the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection has been newly processed!

The collection was donated in 2017 and contains a multitude of photographs, scrapbooks, posters, audiovisual materials, and records documenting Ms. Anderson’s work with the Baltimore Dance Theater. You can read an earlier blog post here about Eva Anderson’s impact in Maryland among generations of dancers, and the process of bringing her collection to the Special Collections & Archives.

Eva Anderson (b. 1933 – d. 2017) was the artistic director of Eva Anderson Dancers, Ltd., formerly known as the Baltimore Dance Theater. Anderson studied ballet, modern dance, and African dance extensively in New York City, where she also received her B.A. in dance and her M.A. in Education from Adelphi University. She moved to Maryland in the 1970s, and she remained here for the rest of her career. Anderson first joined the Baltimore Dance Theater, originally a part of the Cultural Arts Program in Baltimore, as a teacher in the mid-1970s. Later, Anderson became the director. In the early 1980s, the dance company was incorporated as the non-profit Eva Anderson Dancers, Ltd. As the director for over 30 years, Anderson lead the work to teach dance, choreograph new pieces, raise money, plan performances, rent theater space, and lead the non-profit.

Poster from the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection, Special Collections & Archives.

Under Eva Anderson’s direction, the Baltimore Dance Theater flourished; many students were involved in the company over the years, it was awarded grants, and the dance theater performed around the Baltimore and Maryland region at venues like the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Howard County Arts Council, local universities such as Morgan State University, venues in Washington, D.C., and in other locations. The Baltimore Dance Theater and Eva Anderson often partnered with local entities such as grade schools, colleges, the Zoo, and others to provide dance instruction. Over the years, the Dance Theater participated in events like Baltimore’s Artscape and the annual Scott Joplin Festival, and traveled around the country and the world to perform. But, their home was always Baltimore.

Poster from the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection, Special Collections & Archives.

Anderson’s choreography focused on American modern dance with a focus on African-American dance. The dance company performed Anderson’s original choreography and that of others during their concerts. One of Anderson’s dances, “The Elephant,” was originally performed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Other performances included dances such as “Giant Steps,” “Dreams,” “Clowns,” “Ictus,” “Cakewalk,” and many others

The impact of Eva Anderson’s dance classes, performances, and choreography is significant. Many of her students remained involved in dance and the arts throughout their lives, and the Dance Theater’s performances reached many people in the Baltimore region and beyond.

Throughout the archival collection, researchers interested in learning about the Dance Theater’s performances, venues, and choreography will find correspondence, records, clippings, and many photographs that tell the organization’s story. Posters, professional and candid photographs, video recordings, and other audiovisual materials in this collection will provide interested researchers with a unique chance to learn about the Baltimore Dance Theater and Baltimore arts history.

Poster from the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater, Special Collections & Archives.

In archives, our mission is to make materials and collections accessible to researchers as quickly as possible. This includes creating an online record called a finding aid for researchers to view the collection and organization of the materials in the collection. When the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection arrived at the Special Collections & Archives in 2017, the collection was re-housed in archival boxes for preservation and a collection level finding aid in our online database (ArchivesSpace) was created to broadly tell researchers the kinds of materials in the collection. This gave researchers an access point to easily learn general information about the collection before they might plan to visit and use the materials in person at the Special Collections and Archives.

Arranging posters and oversize materials while processing the Eva Anderson’s Dance Theater Collection

Now, the collection has been processed by the processing archivist and an intern from the Maryland institute College of Art (MICA). (More on working with an intern in the archive in Blog 2 of this two part series!) The revised finding aid includes introductory description of the contents of the collection and detailed folder lists arranged into series to help users find relevant materials.

The finding aid can act as a table of contents for researchers. If we imagine the entire archival collection is a book, then each ‘series’ in the finding aid can be thought of as a different book chapter. The finding aid for the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection can point researchers to  the organizational records of Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater, Anderson’s performance choreography and planning materials, dance theater clippings, press, and publicity materials, or photographs, art, and posters of the dance company. This collection also contains a significant amount of audiovisual materials portraying the work of the dance theater that will interest researchers.

Researchers interested in the history of dance and the arts in Baltimore, the Cultural Arts Program, or the legacy of Eva Anderson will find this collection particularly exciting.

A clipping from a scrapbook found while processing the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection, Special Collections & Archives.

As an archivist, I often get to learn the most about collections while processing. Processing this collection was a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the arts in Baltimore and to work with a dedicated intern. The second blog in this two part blog series will delve more into the experience of working with an intern in the archives!

If you would like to view and/or use the Eva Anderson’s Baltimore Dance Theater Collection for yourself, please contact the Special Collections & Archives to set up an appointment!

If you would like to read the second blog post in this two part series, please click here!

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