Scope and arrangement
The Claire Holt Collection of Indonesian dance materials presents a rich and sensitive account of the cultural life of five islands of Indonesia. The islands, then part of the Dutch East Indies, include Java, Bali, Sulawesi (known in the 1930s as the Celebes), Nias, and Sumatra. Accumulated mostly during the 1930s, the collection comprises approximately 9,000 photographic prints; 3,500 photographic negatives; several reels of 16mm motion picture film; and a small but significant group of manuscripts. In addition to the pre-World War II material are photographic prints, negatives, and slides of artists working in Java and Bali in the mid-1950s.|||Claire Holt's first exposure to Indonesia, in 1930, left her with an overwhelming and enduring impression of a complete integration of art in the spiritual and daily lives of its people. It was this pervasive interplay that held Holt there for ten years, brought her back twice, and kept her researching, advising, teaching, and writing about Indonesia for the remainder of her life. In the 1930s she formally studied Javanese dance at the Krida Beksa Wirama in Surakarta, and she also assisted Rolf de Maré in preserving on film the dance of Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Nias, and Sumatra. She was a devoted friend of Mankunagara VII of Surakarta and welcome at his court. The result was first-hand experience observing and considering Indonesian dance, the production of visual and written records of the dance, and the gathering of additional source materials from colleagues and the Mankunagaran archive.|||In 1978 the Modern Indonesia Project at Cornell University gave Claire Holt's collection to the Dance Collection of The New York Public Library. The department recognized its inability at that time to sort, care for, and provide access to the collection and welcomed the Dance Collection's commitment to do just that. The Dance Collection had been actively acquiring and cataloging Asian dance materials since the early 1970s, but nothing as extensive and visually rich as the Claire Holt Collection had surfaced for Indonesian dance. In 1982, after a few years of fund-raising through special events, work on the Claire Holt Collection began. At that time the nitrate negatives from the 1930s were given attention first. Joseph Reed Petticrew, a photographer trained in the archival care and production of photographic images, prepared duplicate negatives on safety film, and supervised the storage of the negatives into the appropriate archival sleeves and boxes. Because of the remarkable quality of the images on the negatives, and because not all negatives had a corresponding photographic print, Petticrew made a selection of exhibition prints, which were then mounted and matted and are currently available for exhibit. Through funding from the Ford Foundation, which began in 1983, the arrangement, description, and physical care of the entire collection have continued. Accessible at the Dance Collection are 16mm silent films of the dances of Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Nias, and Sumatra. Photographic albums have been compiled for those islands, as well as for Alor and many nearby countries. A photographic record of Holt's trip to Indonesia in 1955 and 1956, in which she sought out working artists, contains images of the artists and their work, with corresponding biographical information.|||Two additional aspects of the Claire Holt Collection should be noted. Several unpublished texts can be found, including one for a book on Javanese and Balinese dance. Holt's continuing attempt to complete a book in the dances of Sumatra and Nias is represented by a narrative and a mock-up for the illustrations. Also available are notes that Holt took while studying Javanese dance. The second item concerns the extensive, high-quality photographs of Indonesian antiquities — temple sites and sculptures. Because Indonesian art and life are so thoroughly intertwined. Claire Holt knew that just as important as observing dance and the formal study of dance was the understanding of the history and culture of Indonesia as a whole — its music, its religion, its literature, and its plastic arts.
The Claire Holt papers are arranged in seven series: