Brooks McNamara, Director of the Shubert Archives, Dies at 72

Obituaries   Brooks McNamara, Director of the Shubert Archives, Dies at 72
Brooks McNamara, a professor and historian who helped to organize the invaluable theatre history resource known as the Shubert Archives, died May 8 in Doylestown, PA. He was 72 and lived in Doylestown and Manhattan.

In 1976 Mr. McNamara, a professor of performance studies at New York University, was asked by the Shubert Foundation to take charge of the mountain of theatre-related documents it owned. Shortly after, the Shubert Archive was formed. At that point, Shubert records were scattered in several locations. There were some six million artifacts in all, including business documents, leases, scripts, musical scores, set and costume designs and photographs. As the history of the producing and theatre-owning Shubert Brothers, and their administrative heirs, stretched back to the very dawn of Broadway theatre, the materials documented every era of the modern theatre district's history.

Mr. McNamara drafted archivist Brigitte Kueppers and four score graduate student interns to sort and catalog the collected items. The process of organizating the collection took 11 years. The archive was eventually housed in the Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street, where it still sits. It was opened to scholars and researchers in 1986, and Mr. McNamara continued as its director until his retirement in 1999.

Brooks McNamara began teaching at NYU's Graduate Drama Department in 1968, and was instrumental in its transformation into the Performance Studies Department, which officially was started in 1980. After retiring in 1996, McNamara remained Professor Emeritus of Performance Studies and Director Emeritus of the Shubert Archive. He died in May 2009.

His many books include "Gower Champion Dance and the American Musical Theatre," "Edwin Booth's Legacy: Treasures From The Hampden-Booth Theatre Collection At The Players," "American Popular Entertainments: Jokes, Monologues, Bits, and Sketches. [1st Ed.] New York" and "Step Right Up."

In addition to his wife, Nan, whom he met in college and married in 1962, he is survived by a daughter, Jane McNamara, of Queens; a son, Whitney, of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren.

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