“Things take time—T.T.T.” My father recently reminded me of this phrase, coined by Danish scientist and poet Piet Hein, and it has been an apt mantra for engaging with the Walker Art Center’s monumental Merce Cunningham Dance Company collection. Cunningham’s complete archive of sets and costumes, including materials ranging from 1942 to 2011, now permanently resides at the Walker. Over the past two years, my work as the researcher on this project has included cataloging 3,443 costume pieces, working with the museum’s visual art curators on three Cunningham-related research exhibitions, conducting more than 40 archival interviews with Cunningham collaborators and affiliates, and visiting archives across the United States, Europe, and Japan. This project has been an odyssey of enormity and richness, breaking new trails and retracing old histories—and we have only just begun. Here are some highlights from the strides that we have made thus far.
Costume boxes from the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s New York facilities and their contents were sorted and cataloged in the Walker’s painting storage room. Photo: Abigail Sebaly