Poster of Maude Adams production of Joan of Arc at the Harvard University Stadium on June 22nd, 1909.Theatrical posters are sheets of paper or card stock intended to be displayed as advertisements for a performance. Early printed posters are similar (and sometimes identical) to playbills. With advances in printing technologies posters started to incorporate images and more complicated typography around the middle of the 19th century.

Posters can range in size from small fliers intended to be affixed to community boards to extremely large sheets intended to be affixed to the sides of buildings. A subgenre of the poster, window cards, came into use in the 20th century. They are printed on heavier stock and are intended to be displayed in shop windows.

Broadside is a wider term than posters that covers anything printed on one sheet meant to be read unfolded. Sometimes a catalog entry may use this wider term rather than poster, particularly for pre-19th century material.

Posters may include documentary information, such as the cast or the price of admission. But sometimes they only include the title and place of production. Even then, they are useful in determining how a production was marketed to potential audiences.

Searching for Posters

To search for posters, go to the Advanced Search page in HOLLIS. Select Library Catalog from the Search for: options, change Keywords Anywhere to Form/Genre in the dropdown menu next to the first search box, and enter Posters OR Broadsides OR Window cards, making sure to capitalize both letters of OR.

Screenshot of a HOLLIS search for a poster.

You can then use the second search box to search for a name, production title, or other term relevant to your research.