Special Collections hosts the world’s largest collection of vaudeville treasures. The exhibit, documenting one of the nation’s most influential entertainment genres, showcases a variety of items from several collections: The American Vaudeville Museum Collections, the Arthur Frank Wertheim papers and the David Soren Popular Sheet Music Collection. During the run of the exhibit, the UA musical theater student group Encore! will offer a free performance of music from the golden years of vaudeville.
Beyond the entertainment aspects of vaudeville, this exhibit shows how vaudeville – while providing economic opportunities for people regardless of backgrounds, race, gender or sexuality – did so within the confines of segregation policies, directives of business tycoons and the expectations of audiences across the nation. The exhibit presents information on vaudeville theater circuits, individual performers, as well as trade papers and promotional items that document U.S. social history spanning the Progressive Era, World War I, the Jazz Age and the Great Depression.
The exhibit also reflects how aspects of this part of early American popular culture still influence comedy, dance and stage performances today through the examples of shows such as the Ziegfeld Follies and performers such as Fanny Brice, Buster Keaton, Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor, and Burns and Allen.