Merce Cunningham Trust

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts acquired the Merce Cunningham Archive in 2001. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance. Chronicling the art of dance in all its manifestations—ballet, ethnic, modern, social, and folk—the division is much more than a library in the usual sense of the word. It is part museum, part film production center, and part consulting service to the professional dance community. It preserves the history of dance by gathering diverse written, visual, and aural resources, and it works to ensure the art form's continuity through an active documentation and oral history program. The more than twenty-two thousand films and videotapes in the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image preserve the ephemeral art of dance. Material ranges from the earliest Edison reels to the latest television broadcasts; from ethnic dances to ballets by Balanchine; from Broadway musicals to dance therapy and notation. The division also provides reference help to a wide range of dance lovers, from serious scholars, to established choreographers and performers, to schoolchildren just beginning to explore an interest in dance.


Merce Cunningham Archive

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division acquired the Merce Cunningham Archive in 2001, including decades of Cunningham’s manuscripts and papers, 948 reels of film, and video for 548 titles. These materials have all been digitally archived and are accessible at In 2012, following the closure of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the library received hundreds more boxes of Cunningham records and manuscripts, including choreographic notes and thousands of films and videotapes. These new materials will also be digitally archived, and, like all materials in the Dance Division, they will be free and available to the public to be viewed at the Library at Lincoln Center.

Manuscripts and papers from the Merce Cunningham Archive are accessible at A search for the “Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records” will lead to the “Finding Aid,” an online tool that lists all the Merce Cunningham Archive materials. Archival film and video can be found by searching the NYPL catalog for “Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.”
For access to other materials, please consult our research guide, which will help you in searching and interpreting our catalog. In addition, you may wish to view the materials we have on Cunningham; for those, you should search our Manuscripts and Archives website. Please note the following regarding the three Cunningham collections:
The Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records, 1938-2003. Call number: (S) *MGZMD 196. This collection is stored offsite. Use the detailed description tab in the finding aid to determine which boxes you would like to consult, and then go to the catalog record by clicking on the call number in the overview tab of the finding aid and then, in the catalog record, clicking on the gray "Request from Off-site Storage" buttons for each box you would like to order.
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records, Additions, 1890-2012 (bulk 1964-2011). Call number: (S) *MGZMD 351. This collection is also stored offsite, so please follow the instructions above, using the finding aid and the catalog record.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company Choreographic records, 1942-2003. Call number: (S) *MGZMD 295. This collection is stored onsite, but requires permission from the Merce Cunningham Trust to view. To request permission, contact the Merce Cunningham Trust: