6. There is an Archive Inside the Metropolitan Opera House

On level A, one of the below stage levels is the Metropolitan Opera archives, led by Peter Clark, the Director of Archives. The archives were first established in 1957 by Mrs. John DeWitt Peltz, a volunteer. She went into the basement of the old Metropolitan Opera house, saved boxes of materials that had been stored there haphazardly for years and organized them. Included in her finds were the opening night program from 1883 and minutes from the 1880 meeting when the board decided to build a new opera house.

In 1981, the Met formally established an Archives department and hired Robert Tuggle to run it. The archives includes a climate controlled area that stores costumes, artist ledgers, cash books, and many other items. Almost every single program since 1883 is in the archive (there have been more than 27,000 performances since then). Costumes are stored in boxes in the climate controlled area, with large donations from the families of Enrico Caruso and Kirsten Flagstad. According to the archive, “the acquisition of costumes, once haphazard…is now systematic with important examples entering the collection as productions are retired.”

The Metropolitan Archive is also actively digitizing its archives, an initiative led by John Tomasicchio, the digital archive manager. He showed us around the climate controlled archive: