Curtains Without Borders is a small non-profit organization that has been documenting and restoring historic stage scenery for almost 20 years. We’ve found 500 grand drapes, advertising curtains, and backdrops in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Massachusetts plus more in other states. To date, our team of conservators has restored about 300 of these historic stage scenery, which were created between about 1880 and 1940, although on rare occasions, pieces painted after 1940 are also included.
Now we are working on a national database of historic stage scenery and we need help! We know that many town halls, Grange Halls, and opera houses have, or used to have, advertising curtains or whole sets of theatrical scenery. It is not uncommon to find that curtains have migrated to local historical societies or museums once their hall falls into disuse or gets modernized for new uses. We are just as interested in curtains in storage as those that still grace their stages.
A hundred years ago, grand drapes and painted backdrops were the primary artistic feature in the cultural life of almost every village and town in much of the country. They provided color and escapism in institutions that varied greatly in size and professional capacity. The scenery was permanently installed, available as set backdrops for traveling troupes, speakers, town meeting, graduations, locally-produced variety shows and various societies and clubs.
If anyone knows of a historic stage curtain, whether in a Grange, an opera house, an historical society, or just sitting in a barn, please let us know. You can visit www.curtainswithoutborders.com to see what we have already documented and the type of restoration work our conservators have been able to do. The project to document curtains nationwide is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Trust.
Please contact Chris Hadsel at [email protected] or call 802-863-4938.