Reprocessing the Federal Theatre Project – Music File

There were three main concerns that became apparent while reprocessing the Music File series of the Federal Theatre Project collection. When I opened the first box, I immediately noticed the sheet music was as large as the folders. This caused curling that hid the folder title and hindered removal from the box. The second concern was the arrangement of the music that changed with each play production. And the third concern was what to do with all of the miscellaneous music – either printed music that was being considered for inclusion in plays, or fragments from productions.

I tried to correct the curling by removing the papers, refoldering, and placing preservation bricks on top of the folders. This treatment lessened the curling and made the folders easier to handle. I placed folders into the boxes so that only a small amount of space remained, enough to easily remove folders, and still prevent severe curling. Also important to reboxing was alternating the direction of the papers. In the first folder the title page is facing the back of the folder and in the second folder the title page is facing the front of the folder, so that the pressure from each side will help flatten both. Unfortunately not much can be done about the size of the papers. The papers still obscure the title but are able to fit comfortably in the box.

Box with sheet music, after treatment and refoldering. Federal Theatre Project Collection C0002, Box 313. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University. Public domain.

My concern with the order of the papers was that some play titles were arranged by sets, so that there was a complete set of all (or some) of the instruments used in the production arranged in standard orchestral instrument order. But other play titles had all of the instrument scores together – so all of the copies of the violin music would be together, for instance. Should I put all the instrument scores together within a production title or should I have full copies of the play music in orchestral order? For this I decided to pretty much leave it as I found it which means most are arranged in orchestral order but there are a couple arranged by instrument type – not ideal but manageable and still findable.

The miscellaneous music is currently labeled “miscellaneous” although the title of the song, date published, and the composer if known are also included. Fragments are arranged alphabetically within the series. This separates the published music from that created for the Federal Theatre Project without dividing this series into subseries as it was originally. Because this series is much smaller than the original music file this seems to be an acceptable option.

The first page of the conductor's score from the Los Angeles production of Aladdin. Federal Theatre Project Collection C0002, Box 313 Folder 1. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University. Public domain.