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Newly processed archival collections feature women of the Great American Songbook

Singer Connie Boswell (right) of the Boswell Sisters chats with actress Bonita Granville in a 1942 promotional photo from the Songbook Library & Archives. (Provided Photo/Great American Songbook)

(The REPORTER) — Items telling the stories of pioneering women artists such as Diahann Carroll and Mitzi Gaynor are among the 37 historical collections processed last year by staff at the Great American Songbook Foundation’s Songbook Library & Archives.

Founded in 2008, the Songbook Library & Archives has become a major repository for the preservation of artifacts and arrangements from the 20th century foundational era of American popular music. The collections attract musicians and scholars from around the world and provide content for the Foundation’s gallery exhibits and educational programs.

Collections typically are donated by the artists themselves, their families and estates, and other researchers and historical organizations. After a collection is received, the processing includes rehousing the items in archival folders and boxes, creating inventory lists for each box and folder, creating a “finding aid” for the collection, and gathering additional information on the person in question as well as the donor, said Emily Rapoza, director of the Songbook Library & Archives.

The process has become more efficient in recent years with staff additions including Music Librarian Anna LoPrete, responsible for sheet music and arrangements, and Processing Archivist Elisabeth Hedges, who handles other items from the collections. Researchers can look through the contents via the Songbook Foundation’s website,, and contact the staff for more information.

“We have a great team in place now, and we’re really seeing the results,” Rapoza said. “Almost daily, our people are discovering new gems in the collections and making them widely available to anyone with an interest in this rich musical history.”

The newly processed collections include items from the careers and lives of:

Diahann Carroll (1935-2019)

Actress, singer, and activist who broke barriers as the first black woman to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical (No Strings) and the first to star in a TV series (Julia) in a nontraditional role.

Collection includes: arrangements of signature songs including “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “A Sleepin’ Bee” and “A Natural Woman,” as well as a medley of Beatles songs and arrangements for performances with Dionne Warwick and Vic Damone.

Mitzi Gaynor (b. 1931)

Actress, singer, and dancer with credits including the movie musicals “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “South Pacific,” “Anything Goes,” and “The Joker is Wild,” as well as hosting several iconic TV variety specials in the 1960s and 1970s.

Collection includes: musical arrangements of classic songs for Gaynor’s TV specials and nightclub performances.

Patricia Wilson (1929-2022)

Actress who gained early fame on Broadway in “Fiorello!” and numerous Rodgers and Hammerstein shows before moving on to TV and film work including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Days of Our Lives,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “A League of Their Own.”

Collection includes: manuscripts, sheet music, and audio-visual materials she collected throughout her life.

Boswell Sisters Research Collection

Close-harmony vocal group from New Orleans known for 1930s hits such as “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea.” Connie (or Connee) Boswell went on to sing in numerous Hollywood films and often performed and recorded with Bing Crosby.

Collection includes: audio and video recordings and newspaper and magazine clippings about their career.