Curtis Theatre Collection History
363 Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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The Ford E. and Harriet R. Curtis Theatre Collection is a veritable treasure trove for theatre scholars as well as theatre buffs. The collection consists of several thousand volumes of playscripts, acting editions, histories, and critical works of the theatre and drama, over 500,000 theatre programs, plus periodicals, posters, ephemera, rare scrapbooks and over 20,000 photographs. In addition, the Curtis Collection houses archival records of several local theatrical organizations, and the personal papers of show people. The Curtis Theatre Collection is the primary source for Pittsburgh theatre history. With local materials dating back to the 1850's, we are committed to the documentation of Pittsburgh's rich theatrical life.
The Collection was established for the University by Dr. and Mrs. Ford E. Curtis in 1960, after Dr. Curtis retired from a long career of teaching drama in Pitt's English Dept. Dr. Curtis served as the Collection's curator until 1974, and remained actively associated with it until his death in 1979. Initially, as the foundation on which to build, he utilized his personal file of programs and related clippings on the many plays he and Mrs. Curtis had seen. With the development of his institutional and personal contacts, however, he was able to expand the Collection in spectacular fashion. At present, the Curtis Collection holds nearly 500,000 playbills, almost all acquired through gifts by the Collection's many friends.
Theatre programs remain the largest category in Curtis, but other materials include nearly 20,000 photographs, 400 scrapbooks, posters, manuscripts, inventoried archival record groups of production companies and theatre people, and a collection of Acting Editions and Playscripts now numbering 6,500. Curtis also offers a small collection of theatre periodicals.
Although the Curtis Collection contains a broad array of material, in recent years the focus of the collection has sharpened somewhat, towards local theatre history and related archival records. Curtis is the repository for the records of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the Mildred Miller Posvar Papers. The Collection is also the repository for the records of the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, Lovelace Marionette Theatre, and City Theatre, among others. We are proud to be a primary source for documenting Pittsburgh's rich theatrical history, as well as it's future.
Curtis books and periodicals are indexed on PittCat. Acting Editions and Playscripts are controlled via the Collection's own inventory system, and more recent AEs can be found on PittCat. For information regarding the non-book material one should inquire in the Special Collections Reading Room, 363 Hillman. To contact the curator directly, call (412)648-8195, or send an email. Curtis Collection materials are in closed stacks and do not circulate; our staff will retrieve any all requested items for you. All materials must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.