Belknap Performing Arts Collection

Sarah Yancy Belknap Collection for the Performing Arts

The rhythmic beat of dancing feet punishing the parquet! The hills alive with the sound of music! The dulcet tones from the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre! The flicker of light reflecting from the silver screen combined with a cast of thousands gathered together to bring the magic of the world of entertainment to life! The exciting and colorful history of theatre, film and dance, highlighting all the thrills, chills and adventure, is showcased in the BELKNAP COLLECTION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, housed in the DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL AND AREA STUDIES COLLECTIONS at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.

Founded in 1958 by Sarah Yancy Belknap, a New York Librarian and an avid patron of the arts, the Belknap Collection is an eclectic mixture of mainly non-book, primary research materials. Nearly 85% of the collection is ephemera from 19th and 20th Century Europe and America. The archive includes more than 60,000 playbills, programs, costume and stage designs, sheet music, theatrical scrapbooks, prints, etchings, drawings, photographs, posters, and scripts spanning all of the performing arts. The Belknap Collection also includes essential reference books, rare and large pictorial books, and relevant performing arts periodicals. Our MISCELLANEOUS page includes circus ephemera, theatrical publicity and production photographs and various vertical files covering performing arts within the STATE OF FLORIDA and the city of GAINESVILLE.


The colorful excitement of over 100 years of filmed entertainment is showcased in the Belknap CINEMA collection. A varied assortment of heralds, handbills, programs pressbooks , press kits, posters and inserts documenting all aspects of filmmaking from the silent era to the present day – from epic adventures to independent art films – a vast assortment of informative and trivial information can be found within this collection. The PROGRAMS AND PROMOTIONAL material is filed alphabetically by title. The MISCELLANEOUS material is filed alphabetically by subject and includes an eclectic mix of information ranging from the Academy Awards to Zanuck.


The collection moves briskly through the world of classical and modern artists and performances with emphasis on the Ballet Russe, the Royal Ballet, and Sadler’s Wells as well as the individual careers of Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.


The melodic history of music through the ages flows from concert halls, symphony orchestras, Broadway, opera, film programs, handbills, sheet music and recordings. The Florida Music Collection of sheet music and recordings gathers the high and low points of music celebrating the Florida lifestyle. The Bernard S. Parker World War I Sheet Music Collection includes 753 pieces of American sheet music and related materials pertaining to music of the First World War (1914-18).

Opera and Operetta

  • The high notes from the world of Opera and Operetta are chronicled in the Belknap Opera/Operetta ephemera collection. The great performers, performances, showplaces and companies are included in this melodically colorful compilation of material.
  • OPERA AND OPERETTA LIBRETTI: Miscellaneous libretti filed alphabetically by show title in 5 Hollinger boxes (3 linear feet). Each folder contains at least one English translation, but many have multiple and varied versions.
  • INTERNATIONAL OPERA COMPANIES: Miscellaneous ephemera filed alphabetically by country in 3 boxes (4.5 linear feet).
  • USA OPERA COMPANIES: Miscellaneous ephemera filed alphabetically by state in 4 boxes (6 linear feet).
  • OPERA AND OPERETTA PROGRAMS: Miscellaneous programs and ephemera filed alphabetically by show title in 17 boxes (25.5 linear feet.)


The varied aspects of the theatre, from burlesque to vaudeville – from drama to musical comedy, are played out in photographs, posters, and playbills covering all major productions and landmarks of the 19th and 20th Century. Of special interest are the Cal Yeomans Collection, the Belknap Playbill and Program Collection and the Lillian Schneider Bartell Playbill Collection.


See the Ringling Digital Collection.


Costume and set designer John David Ridge is prominently represented in this collection with his theatre, ballet, television and film sketches, notebooks and papers.


The curtain rises to explore the world of the Bard and his body of work. Each of Shakespeare’s plays is documented in prints, photos, programs, heralds and playbills.

Radio and Television

The Sound of Radio and Television

The golden age of broadcasting from the radio heyday of the 20s, 30s and 40s, when Jack Benny, Bob Hope, The Shadow, Fanny Brice and H.V. Kaltenborn ruled the airwaves, through the television era when variety, drama, comedy, sports and world history flashed into our living rooms, each day. The rise of technology and the extraordinary popularity of radio and television, in the past century, led to revolutionary changes in entertainment, news gathering and delivery, lifestyles and history represented by the sights, sounds and ephemera from a magical and legendary era. Writer Robert Campbell called this broadcasting phenomenon “the reality that changed our world forever.”

Guide to scripts by Preston Wood

One of the more prolific of scriptwriters from the “Golden Age” of radio and television drama and comedy, Preston Wood has produced an amazing and varied list of credits in his sixty-year career. The PRESTON WOOD SCRIPT COLLECTION spans every genre from the western to science fiction and includes many of the classic television episodes cited by broadcast historians and baby boomer fans of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Dick Summer Audio Collection

Collection of audio compact discs (CDs) featuring the spoken word readings and narrations (“personal audios”) of legendary radio personality, voice artist, poet, writer and “story teller” Dick Summer.

Miscellaneous Material

The Belknap PHOTOGRAPH collection preserves thousands of shimmering PUBLICITY and PRODUCTION images dating back to the age of Victorian theatre and spanning 20th century vaudeville, Broadway, radio and television. The photos are filed alphabetically by performer name or show title.

A treasure trove of eclectic information is available in the FLORIDA PERFORMING ARTS VERTICAL FILE highlighting the STATE OF FLORIDA (“Dance Associations”, ‘Story Tellers”, “Theatre Conference”, etc), individual CITIES AND TOWNS (from the Panhandle to the Keys in an alphabetical listing), and the city of GAINESVILLE (including the University of Florida) performing arts scene.

Trevor “Tommy” Bale epitomized the versatile “circus man” who “did it all” in the center ring and behind the scenes. Noted as one of the world’s greatest tiger trainers, Bale was also known as a gifted clown, acrobat, trick bicyclist, vaudevillian and ringmaster. Bale’s unpublished and unedited autobiographical manuscript ( written under the guidance of famed ghostwriter and editor Walter B. Gibson – creator of THE SHADOW), paints an exciting picture of the early 20th century European vaudeville and circus circuits. Bale vividly describes the triumphs, glory, pain and agony of life on the road, culminating in Bale’s headlining contract with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in the mid 1950s. The TREVOR “TOMMY” BALE COLLECTION promises three rings (and more) full of circus lore.

The John W. Lindell Collection includes cartoon, comic strip and animation art anthologies and histories collected by John W. Lindell from 1953 through 2007. The collection includes close to 1,000 books by individual artists and 220 books of anthologies published by various magazines. There are also 150 paperback (pocket) books of individual artists and comic strip anthologies.

A Video Introduction the the Belknap Collection for the Performing Arts