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Betty Corwin, Founder Of NYPL's Theatre On Film And Tape Archive, Dies at 98

Betty Corwin, Founder Of NYPL's Theatre On Film And Tape Archive, Dies at 98

The Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT), The Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the NYPL community have announced the passing of Betty L. Corwin, who died Tuesday, September 10, at the age of 98 at her home in Weston, Connecticut surrounded by loved ones. The Founder and Director (from 1969 - 2000) of the Library's groundbreaking Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, Betty created one of the most important and vital resources in the worldwide theatre community.

Read our interview with Betty from 2017 here.

In November of 1969, Betty came to the Library for the Performing Arts and proposed the idea of preserving visual records of live theatre performances. She was provided with a desk and a phone, and initially worked on a volunteer basis. Despite many obstacles and after lengthy negotiations with the theatrical unions and guilds, the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) was established and made its first recording in November 1970. The collection has become the foremost archive of live theatre performances in the world and a role model for similar archives in the United States and abroad. In 2001, Betty was recognized with a Special Tony Award for her service to TOFT and the preservation of theatre. Today, TOFT holds more than 8,000 recordings of Off-Broadway, Broadway and regional performances, and interviews with theatre legends.

Betty understood the invaluable importance of documenting performances and productions which would otherwise be lost to the ages. The work of so many artists has been preserved because of the TOFT Archive, and countless academics, educators, students, journalists, theatre professionals, and theatre-lovers will be inspired and enriched for generations to come by the collection Betty worked tirelessly to create and nurture. TOFT's success today is a credit to her vision and leadership, and the Library is committed to honoring her legacy for generations to come.

Betty is survived by her children, John, Tom and Pam, her adored assistant, Monica, daughters-in-law, Diana and Marlene, grandchildren, Anna, Emily and Jake, and great grandchildren Solomon and Luna Mae. Her life inspired not only her family and extended family but many others whose lives she touched as an example of intelligence, charm and loving determination, bringing joy to so many people in so many ways.

Photo: Courtesy of the Corwin Family

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