Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kansas City Library Boasts Burlesque Collection

When the Folly Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, cleaned out its basement, it uncovered a treasure trove of items from its colorful past. The Folly, which originated as a vaudeville house when it first opened in 1900, offered a variety of entertainment over the years, including burlesque.
Folly Theater, in Kansas City, Missouri, circa 1970.
Image via Wikipedia.com

Burlesque performers Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Suni Daye, Cherry Smash, Sally Rand, and others graced the stage of the Folly. Some of the materials from their performances were left behind at the legendary venue, among them publicity photos, posters, and more.

Coming across these materials in the basement, the Folly's staff knew what they had was of historical importance. But the question arose: What should be done with all of this stuff? Talking to the Kansas City Star, Gale Tallis, executive director at the Folly, said, "We considered whether we wanted to let go of our archives. Our realization was that we had no way to take care of those archives."

The nearby Central Library branch of the Kansas City Public Library presented a clear solution. "We wanted them [the archives] close by, and we felt they [the library] had a team to take care of them the way we would like and to have them available to the general public," Tallis told the Kansas City Star.
Kansas City Public Library archivist Kate Hill inspects a poster of burlesque star Tempest Storm.
Image via Pinterest via the Kansas City Star

On their part, the Kansas City Public Library was excited to receive the archives, knowing that it would greatly increase the visibility of the library's Missouri Valley Special Collections. And indeed it has. "We've had a lot of interest in the collection since we received it," Lucinda Adams, senior archivist for the Missouri Valley Special Collections, told the Kansas City Star.

The Kansas City Public Library is currently seeking grants that would allow for hiring a full-time archivist for a period of two years, the time it would take to process all 150 boxes brought over from the Folly Theater. According to the Kansas City Star, "A preliminary inventory has already uncovered a treasure. There are about 80 player piano rolls, including one dating to World War I called 'The Tickle Toe.'" An exhibit of these materials is in the works.

For more on the Kansas City Public Library's new burlesque collection, including a slideshow of some of the items, see the Kansas City Star article "Risque Business: KC Library Collections Relics from Folly Theater's Burlesque Past" at THIS LINK.

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