A Guide to online Ballets Russes Costume Resources

Last week I created a guide to some of my favourite online dance resources. This week I thought I would share my favourite Ballets Russes costume resources. Museums and archives are slowly making more and more of their collections available online but sometimes these are hard to find and navigate – happy lock-down researching!

1. The National Gallery of Australia

The NGA holds one of the largest collection of Ballets Russes costumes in the world. The collection is searchable here. Once you have entered your search term the results will appear in a list. Here are the results for the search ‘Ballets Russes’.

This list provides you with all items in the collection, most of which are not photographed but are fascinating to read about. If you select ‘View Image Only’ you will see the online sources.

These photographs and entries are fantastic and well worth browsing through. The website, Ballets Russes: The Art of Costume, launched as part of the gallery’s major exhibition nearly 10 years ago is also well worth a visit. This contains pages on individual ballets and designers and is very well researched and presented.

2. The Victoria & Albert Musuem

The V&A in London holds the largest collection of Ballets Russes costumes. In a similar way to the NGA, the V&A collections are searchable through a separate web-page here. For this search engine I have found you need to be a little more specific. The terms ‘Ballets Russes’ will provides 100s of items including photographs and designs, but search ‘Ballets Russes Costume’ rapidly narrows the results.

You are able to refine your results with the panel on the left, and also select ‘only records with images’ on the top right. One of the things I find most helpful about this collection is that an image exists for almost all entries, even if it is just a snapshot of the costume on a hanger – this is a fantastic help to any researcher.

3. The Museum of London

The Museum of London holds a small but significant Ballets Russes Collection, as well as a large collection of material relating to Anna Pavlova. All of this material is now searchable through the Museum’s Collections Online page.

The website also has a dedicated ‘Dress for Dance’ page from which you can browse the related objects, but I have found searching in the main Collections Online page more effective (especially if you are looking for the extensive Anna Pavlova collection – for this simply search Anna Pavlova and you we see 100s of entries covering photographs, costumes and more). Each costume item has its own record; for example a dress, petticoat, shawl and shoes wore as one costume will be listed under four entries. This is worth keeping in mind when exploring the resources.

4. The Harry Ransom Center, UT Austin

The Harry Ransom Center in Austin holds an impressive Performing Arts collection including a significant amount material relating to dance. The Costumes and Personal Effect Database is the best place to start.

Searching ‘Ballet’ will bring up the following results which includes a fantastic selection of Ballets Russes costumes and shoes.

5. Other Interesting Collections

THE JOHN BRIGHT COLLECTION

This is the online collection of costume items owned by costume designer and owner of Cosprop, John Bright. The collection holds a number of Ballets Russes costumes – a few of which can be seen through their new online collection.

LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) holds a small collection of Ballets Russes costumes which can be viewed through their online catalogue.

THE MCNAY

The McNay in San Antonio holds an impressive Theatre Art Collection, most of which is searchable through this page. Below you can see the search results by searching for ‘Ballets Russes Costume’ and then further refining this to just costume items.

Enjoy exploring these wonderful collections!

Please note that as well as being a Travelling Historian I am also a Dyslexic one. I have a wonderful editor and lots of software to help me but sometimes spelling and typing errors do get through.