Apollo Theater Project

Apollo Theater Project Partner(s): Oral History Research Office

Released: TBA
In development.

The Apollo Theater Project is a multifaceted initiative to document, preserve, and disseminate the history of the Apollo Theater and the Harlem community. The Columbia University Oral History Research Office (OHRO) is conducting more than 150 hours of interviews with cultural and political figures such as Smokey Robinson, Leslie Uggams and Gordon Anderson, who are connected with the 75-year history of the Theater. CCNMTL is assisting in capturing video interviews and is working with Columbia University faculty to integrate the interview footage into the classroom.

The Apollo Theater Project is a collaboration between the OHRO, the Apollo Theater Foundation, CCNMTL, and the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia.

Project Details

The Apollo Theater Project represents a unique partnership between the historic Apollo Theater, filmmakers documenting its central role in Harlem over the course of decades, faculty incorporating aspects of its rich history into their courses at Columbia, and divisions of Columbia's Information Services facilitating the interplay of filmmaking, scholarship, and teaching.

Usually, faculty wishing to draw on documentary footage in their courses are confined to finished productions. The Apollo Theater Project represents a new model, in which faculty and oral historians inflect the production of a documentary from its inception. Columbia's Oral History Research Office (OHRO) is working closely with the Apollo Theater to conduct interviews that will not only inform a documentary of the theater's 75-year history, but also provide the basis for a rich research archive of audio and video interviews. Advisory sessions at Columbia facilitated by CCNMTL are allowing faculty to further enrich this project by suggesting interviewees, lines of inquiry, and thematic approaches. As material is shot and processed, CCNMTL is working with these faculty partners to incorporate it into their teaching.

Footage of Smokey Robinson, Gordon Anderson, Hal Jackson, Shirley Greenes, Quincey Jones, Charles Rangel, Bobby and Jack Schiffman, Leslie Uggams, Billy Taylor, Dionne Warwick and others has already been captured by OHRO, CCNMTL, and Columbia's Center for Digital Scholarship. CCNMTL is now making some of this raw footage available to instructors in the new Oral History Masters of Art at Columbia University. While the Apollo Theater Project continues to create new materials, CCNMTL will continue conversations with faculty affiliated with Columbia's Center for Jazz Studies, the Institute for Research in African American Studies English and Comparative Literature, and other programs.

Student engagement with this growing archive of testimony about the Apollo's cultural and political history will provide yet another layer to this rich project. Columbia students are fortunate to be living right next to this seminal institution; they are in an ideal position to access, research, and experience an unparalleled and living history. As the Apollo Theater Project unfolds, it will make a wealth of new source material available to them, and foster educational activities made possible by proximity, mutual institutional support, and a combined commitment to Harlem's vibrant past and future.

Related news:
Oct-2009: Students Learn From Apollo Theater Project's Historic Interviews