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Harvey Sheldon Jewish American Music Video Research Library

On Thursday, October 25, 2001, Mr. Harvey Sheldon donated to the University of Pennsylvania Library a collection of video footage documenting the role of American Jews in the American entertainment industry. Sheldon, a Philadelphia native, is famous as the co-creator of the "Bunny Hop" dance of the original American Band Stand program which aired from Philadelphia in the 1950s. He founded the Harvey Sheldon Band, was a songwriter and pioneering disc jockey. His gift makes the University of Pennsylvania Library the first library in the nation to have such a research collection. Unlike other discrete collections of Jewish American music or film, the Sheldon collection provides a visual window into understanding how Jews helped to creat Broadway musicals, Jazz and other entertainment genres from the 1920s through the 1990s. As David Fox, Penn Theatre Arts faculty member and theatre critic for the Philadelphia City Paper puts it: "Researching and reconstructing performance practices in the American musical theatre require primary audio and visual materials. Examples are hard to find and the Sheldon collection makes available these kinds of resources."

The collection features artistic works written, directed, produced, or performed by Jews for general as well as for Jewish American audiences. It numbers approximately 2,000 video titles copied on to 182 video cassette tapes. The collection includes classic recordings and historical footage of Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, Ethel Merman, Alice Faye, Judy Garland, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Buddy Morrow, and many others. Sheldon is dedicating the collection to the memory of the last century's Central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants and their descendents - such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Harold Arlen. The purpose of the collection, Sheldon states, is to "present an opportunity to study and research the American Jewish Music Revolution - America's Classical Music, Broadway Musical Comedy, the Hollywood Musicals, the Music from Tin Pan Alley and Jazz - Seeing and hearing a performance is the only way to really comprehend [this history]."

The gift, named the "Harvey Sheldon Jewish American Music Video Research Library," is part of the University of Pennsylvania Library's Judaica collections, which is one of the largest and most distinguished in the world. In particular, the Sheldon collection complements Penn's renowned Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Music Archive, which contains over 26,000 catalogued sound titles. The acquisition of multi-media print, audio, visual collections and electronic resources reflects the ongoing revolutionary transformation of the Penn Library as a central location of teaching and research.

To view the contents of the collection, compiled and annotated by Mr. Glyn Ayres, click here: Harvey Sheldon Jewish American Music Research Library
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