An alliane of major dance collections, formed to document and preserve America's dance.
Dance Heritage Coalition

Choreographing Your Search


  • This site is a tutorial for in-depth dance research, focusing on primary sources available in archives and research libraries. Most public and academic libraries include dance books, dance magazines or journals, commercially available dance videos, and sometimes photographs or slides. But these published resources are only the very beginning for dance researchers, and represent a small percentage of the world’s dance resources.

  • Archives and research libraries collect a variety of original unpublished material, often called primary sources. Collections can include materials in many formats: film reels, video and audio cassettes, manuscripts (e.g. letters and diaries), oral history transcripts, dance company archives (e.g. publicity materials, concert programs, touring information, financial records, and contracts), photographs, designs, drawings, paintings, three-dimensional objects (e.g. sculptures, masks, and costumes), and computer files. Archives and research libraries often contain some published materials, such as newspaper and magazine clippings, concert programs, and scrapbooks. Research libraries collect unusual or rare books and journals not easily accessible elsewhere.

  • Archival collections range in size from a single letter, or a shelf with a few videotapes, to a large warehouse with thousands of film reels or hundreds of boxes of business records.

  • Archival collections most often are unique, and they must be carefully handled to insure their preservation. Archival materials are usually kept in acid-free containers, and brought to researchers by the archives staff upon special request.

  • Archivists have developed specialized ways, such as finding aids, to help researchers identify and locate these unique resources.