A Note from the Collector, 2020
Sixteen years have passed since my collector’s note was written for the original exhibition “Gilbert and Sullivan: From London to America.” That note discussed the importance of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas and gave background information about my collection. In the interval, I have been able to acquire many important additions to the collection which would have greatly enhanced that exhibition. And since then, I have begun to transfer selected portions of my collection to the University of Rochester Library as the Harold A. Kanthor Collection of Gilbert and Sullivan. I plan to transfer additional portions from time to time.
The University of Rochester Library has honored me by mounting two subsequent exhibitions. The first, in 2014, displayed many of the 280 posters designed for significant Gilbert and Sullivan productions which I have already donated. More recently, in 2019, the exhibition “Arthur Sullivan and the Royal Family” explored how Sullivan and Queen Victoria’s family mutually benefitted from their relationship.
After I acquired a large cache of letters written to and from Richard Corney Grain, a Victorian entertainer with a minor connection to Gilbert and Sullivan, I donated them together with supporting photographs and ephemera to the Library as the Corney Grain Archive.
Several unusual items that I have collected have led me down new pathways for my collection. A group of nineteenth century Gilbert and Sullivan libretti printed in China has sparked an interest in the ex-pat G&S experience in far-flung British colonies. Photographs, libretti and artful programs demonstrate the interest in The Mikado shown by audiences in non-English speaking European countries from 1886 to 1900 and beyond. I recently acquired programs and photographs of several minstrel versions of The Mikado which call for additional research. And who knew that there was a link between the Civil War veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic and H.M.S. Pinafore? I now have a souvenir that proves that there was.
With the Library’s encouragement, I have begun to process items that I have donated to the Library, necessitating the addition of a librarian’s skill to my medical training. As this essay is written, visiting the Library is restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this new venture for me must be done at home. But the restriction underlines the importance of remote digital capabilities of special collections, even while I value being able to physically touch, hold and even smell the actual objects that I collect.
A special thank you must be given to Jessica Lacher-Feldman who has shown great appreciation for my collection and has recognized its potential for University research, as well as the delight that so many of the items can evoke.
Hal Kanthor, '66M (MD), 2020