Costume and Scene Designs

Goncharova set design for Coq d'OrOriginal designs contain valuable information about the costumes and sets for a production. While not every costume or set will have been photographed, their design process would likely have involved creating a set of drawings or digital renderings. Physical designs may contain fabric samples, color swatches, and measurements. In addition to these kinds of details, designs created over the entire period of preparing the production can illustrate the evolving creative process. Because of this, it's important to understand the place of any particular design within the history of the production in order to interpret it accurately.

Design processes vary across time periods, cultures, and individual artists, but in general scenic designers create renderings, elevations, ground plans, and set models as part of their work. Renderings covey what the stage will look like to the audience, ground plans show the placement of scenic elements, and elevations show scenic elements from perspective. Set models are generally created before final drawings, which might include quite a bit of technical information for the professionals in charge of building the sets.

Costume designs generally begin with rough sketches that are increasingly refined until the director and designer decide on a design. The designer then creates a final rendering.

Searching for Designs

To search for original designs, go to the Advanced Search page in HOLLIS. Select Library Catalog from the Search for: options, and enter design in the first search box. Enter the title of the production, name of the designer, name of the company, or other relevant search terms in the second search box.

screenshot of search described above. design is entered in the first search box, Crucible in the second.

Some searches may bring back a large number of results, including results which are not original drawings. If this is the case, you might try limiting the Resource Type to Archives / Manuscripts. If you are searching specifically for costume designs you can enter costume design in the first search box. If you are searching specifically for scene designs you can enter set design OR scene design in the search box, making sure to capitalize both letters in the word OR.

Two articles have appeared in Performing Arts Resources describing the costume and scene design holdings in the Harvard Theatre Collection (Harvard Key required for full text):

  • Melton, Robert. 2010. "Costume Design in the Harvard Theatre Collection." Performing Arts Resources 27, 125-130. (Full text)
  • Fern, Annette. 2012. "Scenic Design in the Harvard Theatre Collection." Performing Arts Resources 29, 78-87. (Full text)