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Don Buell theatre collection

Identifier: MSS 493 large

Scope and Contents

The Don Buell theatre collection consists of the photographs by Florence and Tommy Vandamm of Broadway plays as well as playbills, scripts, clippings, posters, and other ephemera collected by Don Buell. While the collection primarily focuses on productions in New York City, there is also materials on the MSU Players and other Michigan theatre companies, and ephemera from Buell's "Curtain Going Up" productions.


  • Creation: 1900-1975


Conditions Governing Access

The material is stored offsite in Remote Storage. Please contact Special Collections 3 working days in advance if you wish to use it.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For photocopy and duplication requests, please contact the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

Biographical / Historical

Donald Buell (1907-1960) was a Michigan State University professor of Speech. He joined the MSU faculty in 1937 and facilitated the purchase of the Van Damm Theatre Photograph collection by MSU Libraries in 1959. Buell maintained weekly program, "Curtain Going Up" for WKAR radio broadcast (from 1938) and television show (from 1954) which showcased the theater arts and frequently utilized this collection. Throughout his career, Buell mentored theatre students and promoted theater arts in the community by way of the M. S. U. Players (Michigan State Players) and Theta Alpha Phi.

Florence Vandamm was born in England in approximately 1883. She studied painting and turned to photography after World War I. Upon marrying her husband, Tommy Vandamm, he decided to join her in the profession. The couple emigrated to New York in 1923, working for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines and became some of the foremost photographers of the American stage. After Tommy's death in 1944, Florence Vandamm continued the business focusing on theatrical life and the figures in it. She studied the plays as a director, watching each production several times before she took the shots to use for publicity. Her clients included Maurice Evans, Paul Muni, John Gielgud, Judith Anderson, Burgess Meredith, Alfred Lunt, Leonard Bernstein, and Lynn Fontaine. Florence Vandamm was the first woman to be a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.


18.3 Linear Feet (26 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

After Professor of Speech Don Buell donated the $550 "Distinguished Teacher of the Year" award to the libraries, he facilitated the purchase of an extensive theatre photograph collection by leading New York photographers Florence and Tommy Vandamm in 1959. The photographs were integrated into Buell's personal theatre ephemera collection and transferred to MSU Special Collections in February 1960.

Processing Information

Original processing information unknown. In 2016, the collection was inventory was rekeyed from card catalog entries with the assistance of circulation and copy center student assistants, with the finding aid updated by Sarina Cords and Lydia Tang.

Processing Information

Source consulted in writing this finding aid: White, Robert W., "Florence Vandamm Photographer of Broadway," Herald Tribune, 15 March 1966

Finding Aid for the Don Buell theatre collection
4 Published And Cataloged
Sarina Cords, Lydia Tang, and Leslie Behm
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections Repository

MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI 48823 USA