Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg Curator of Exhibitions
New York Public Library of the Performing Arts
Barbara originally entered Tisch as an MFA student in Theater design but became interested in performance studies after taking classes with Brooks McNamara and Michael Kirby. Although she had already begun writing her dissertation, she entered the doctoral program during the transition from the Graduate Department of Drama into what is now the Department of Performance Studies. When asked about the relationship between her current work and performance studies, Barbara said, "My work as an exhibition curator is 3/4 based in thinking about visual, aural, and intellectual connections among artifacts and audiences--a basis of Performance Studies. The other 1/4 comes from learning how to research and document performance--the keystone of the Performance Studies department mind. As a performance historian, I was always considered less than optimally concerned with theory. But I have become a stalwart of the theoretical, even radical wing of museum professionals. My dissertation was on dance in vaudeville; my post-doc thesis was on museums' institutional authority and narrative structure. At this point in my museum career (which is much more interesting than my design work ever was), I am consulting on new museums and being asked to present workshops for colleagues on developing exhibits for audiences. Performance studies helped me understand how physical and artifactual structures help audiences approach exhibits."
Barbara authored the Biographical Dictionary of Dance; co-authored Heading West / Touring West: Mapmakers, Performing Artists, and the American Frontier with Alice C. Hudson, edited Scenes & Machines from the 18th Century: The Stagecraft of Jacopo Fabris & Cityoen Boullet, Taking the Pledge and Other Public Amusements, and Popular Music 1900-1919: An Annotated Guide to American Popular Songs; and co-edited Preserving America's Performing Arts, Papers from the Conference on Preservation Management for Performing Arts Collection with Brigitte Kueppers. Exhibitions she has curated for the New York Public Library of Performing Arts include: Capturing Nureyev: James Wyeth Paints the Dancer with Lauren Smith; Touring West: 19th-Century Performing Artists on the Overland Trail ;Kurt Weill: Making Music Theater with Elmar Jucham and Dave Stein; and Transformations: A Celebration of the Creative Spirit in the Performing Arts. In 2002, Barbara presented her paper, "Voices of Others: Strategies for Integrating Visitors' Personal Narratives into Exhibits and Exhibition Interpretation" for the Smithsonian Fellowships in Museum Practice program panel "Current Research in Museum Studies: Ways of Sharing Knowledge."