This is part of an ongoing series of entries being written about the Samuel French archives at Amherst College.
M. Abbott Van Nostrand served as the head of theatrical publishing company Samuel French, Inc. for an incredible thirty-eight years, from 1952 until his retirement in 1990. Early on, he realized that French’s history and output could be immensely valuable to scholars, performers, and theatrical enthusiasts.
Van Nostrand approached Amherst College (his alma mater) in 1964, offering a gift of Samuel French records and publications to the Amherst College Library. Over the next fifty years, the library accepted more than four hundred and fifty linear feet of unprocessed archival material including thousands of plays and publications, photographs, costume design illustrations, acting editions, musical scores, theatrical ephemera, and documentation of the Samuel French’s business transactions dating back to the mid 1800’s. (Take a moment to watch Mr. Van Nostrand talk about his experiences working at Samuel French in these oral history videos from 1994!)
As I work on processing this collection, I will be posting updates about my findings here on this site of course, but I will also be serving a term as featured columnist for the official Samuel French blog. To read the rest of this article and learn more about more about the work I’m doing, the types of materials included in the French archive, and interesting tidbits about archival processing (Example: where do all these boxes live? Spoiler–it’s in a decommissioned Cold War-era bunker!), head over to French’s “Breaking Character” site. And while you’re there, be sure to make a bookmark so you can follow my whole series of archive columns as new entries are posted during the next year.