Scope and arrangement
The Rouben Ter-Arutunian papers contain personal and professional materials from his 40 year career as a designer. The collection holds address books, contracts, correspondence, date books, design files, exhibit materials, family papers, notebooks, photographs, scrapbooks, slides and writings.
Ter-Arutunian's correspondence consists of professional and personal letters. Notable correspondents include Alexander Cohen, George Cukor, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, and many others. Correspondence is arranged by date with few exceptions. Some letters were separated by individual by Ter-Arutunian; these remain separated and are filed by name. Business and personal correspondence often overlap.
Since Ter-Arutunian was not tied to one institution, the contracts are useful for ascertaining exactly where he was working at any given time. As a designer he was often involved in more than one project simultaneously. He also negotiated contracts for re-use of his designs.
The majority of Ter-Arutunian's designs can be found in his design portfolios which have been maintained as a separate collection at the New York Public Library's Jerome Robbins Dance Division. The design files found here are small collections of letters, inspiration, sketches and other materials put together by Ter-Arutunian while working on a specific production. These also include a full design blueprint for the set of the New York City Ballet's 1964 production of The Nutcracker. The exhibit materials hold flyers, mailings, photographs, slides and correspondence relating to the many gallery and museum exhibits mounted featuring Ter-Arutunian's work. The inspiration files consist of clippings saved for reference when designing a show in a specific style. Many of the images come from Life Magazine.
Ter-Arutunian's family papers include identification cards, war documents describing his family as Aryan, a draft of his will and his personal copy of his 1978 oral history, which was conducted through the New York Public Library's Library for the Performing Arts. His legal papers consist of various contract disagreements, as well as a 1986 court battle relating his ability to keep two rent-controlled apartments.
The photographs contain professional and personal photographs. The professional shots depict set designs, sketches, mock ups, rehearsals and the final product. The images are sorted by genre or by production. The personal photographs hold some family snapshots and a large quantity of professional headshots of Ter-Arutunian.
The scrapbooks consist of one small volume of personal snapshots and a larger design book showing examples of his work. The larger book has had some images removed prior to donation. It includes photographs of ballet and opera costume and set design, as well as set models and performance shots. Notable are photographs of a 1960 production of Antony and Cleopatra starring Katharine Hepburn.
The slides primarily consist of facsimiles of Ter-Arutunian's design notebooks, probably used in presentations. There are also slides of the actual productions, most photographed by Martha Swope. Where slides were identified by production they are arranged by name, otherwise they are arranged as they were stored.
The writings hold articles and drafts Ter-Arutunian wrote in the 1980s. Some of these may have been intended as lectures, but are not marked as such. Of interest is Designing for Balanchine.
The collection also contains cassette tapes containing opera and ballet scores that Ter-Arutunian used for inspiration, as well as several radio interviews he gave in the later part of his life.
Inquiries regarding audio and video materials in the collection may be directed to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Audio/visual materials may be subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access.
Alphabetical by subject.