TBT: Genevieve “Gegi” Oswald, Founding Curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library

September 1, 2022

When Genevieve Oswald began working at the New York Public Library in 1944, there was no division dedicated specifically to dance. But after coming across the dance materials held by the music division, she began petitioning for a separate department, and in 1947 became the founding curator of what is today known as the Jerome Robbins Dance Division.

In her 40 years in the role, “Gegi” spearheaded the expansion of that small subset of materials into one of the largest dance archives in the world—and an invaluable resource for dance artists, researchers and enthusiasts alike. Upon her retirement in September 1987, Oswald told Dance Magazine, “I think the thing I’m most proud of is watching people use the library.”

In a black and white archival photo, Genevieve Oswald stands between two packed, towering bookcases. She holds a folio the size of her torso, smiling slightly as she examines its contents. She wears an ankle length dark dress and sensible heels.
Genevieve Oswald in the stacks, examining the score for Billy the Kid. Photo by Impact, courtesy DM Archives.

Oswald’s championing of the division was in turn championed by the dance community: She received the Capezio Dance Award in 1956, and a 1972 gala to save the collection saw the likes of George Balanchine, Margot Fonteyn and Alvin Ailey pitch in.

Oswald died in 2019 at age 97, the same year the dance division celebrated its 75th anniversary