National Museum of American History Acquires Important Collection of Film and Sheet Music

October 11, 2010

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History recently acquired the “Donald J. Stubblebine Collection of Musical Theater and Motion Picture Sheet Music and Reference Material, 1843-2010.” Stubblebine, now deceased, started collecting film and stage music around 1970, and his collection includes many rare and precious items, including sheet music going back to what many experts consider the first American stage musical, The Black Crook, in 1866. The collection will be preserved in the museum’s Archives Center.

From Broadway to burlesque, minstrel shows, operettas, the Vaudeville era, ragtime and jazz musicals, the addition of the Stubblebine collection gives the Archives Center the most definitive and comprehensive collection of sheet music anywhere. The rare content of the Stubblebine collection also provides documentation for lost silent films. The collection is estimated at 152 cubic feet and is meticulously arranged into seven series: Early Broadway, Broadway, Post-World War II, Motion Pictures, TV Show Themes, Big Bands and Cue Sheets for Silent Films. Each series is arranged alphabetically by title of show or film and is in excellent condition.

Stubblebine was a tenacious collector who made extraordinary efforts to obtain sheet music for every show and every piece of music within it. An avid theatergoer and a highly respected expert of stage and screen music, he also wrote several reference guides. Stubblebine died May 1, leaving the collection to his friend Joseph Regis Hauber, who donated the collection to the museum.

“The Stubblebine Collection will have major relevance and importance as a primary resource for researchers, not only in the fields of American music, motion pictures, theater and popular culture, but also social and ethnic history,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The museum shines new light on American history after having been dramatically transformed by a two-year renovation. To learn more about the museum, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).