Collection MSS 019 - Helen Shea Collection

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Helen Shea Collection


  • Bulk (Creation)
  • 1920 - 1999 (Creation)


2.34 Linear Feet

Name of creator

Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection contains materials related to the life of Helen Shea. The collection includes photographs, costumes, programs, original works, correspondence, and other materials from her career as a dancer. The material dates from approximately 1920 to 1999, with the majority produced during the span of her dancing career, from about 1920 to 1942. The bulk of the material is made up of photographs, original writings, and correspondence regarding Shea's best-known performance piece, Leda and the Swan. Shea copyrighted the work in 1935, and on several occasions asserted her copyright to stop other individuals from performing the piece. The collection also includes a large group of costumes and costuming supplies which were photographed and removed from the collection due to a mold infestation. The collection contains some photographs and other materials from Shea's career with the Ziegfeld Follies from 1920-1932, as well as a number of touring productions, including Moonlight and Whitebirds. The collection also includes some research into Shea's life and family history, including a short biography written by a neighbor, Dick Card, in 1999.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged in nine series.
Series 1: Photographs
Series 2: Costumes
Series 3: Programs and announcements
Series 4: Original writings
Series 5: Correspondence
Series 6: Music and songbooks
Series 7: Biographical and genealogical information
Series 8: Clippings
Series 9: Miscellaneous materials

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Some materials may be subject to copyright. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

See attached digital object (click on the second image below the title of this record)

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Custodial history


Related materials elements

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Publication notes

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [Container number], Helen Shea Collection, Emerson College Archives, Emerson College, Boston, MA.

Notes element

General note

The Helen Shea collection contains photographs, costumes, musical scores, original writings, correspondence, biographical and genealogical information, clippings, and other materials related to the life and stage career of Helen Shea, a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s and 30s. Much of the material relates to Shea's original one-act dance, Leda and the Swan, and her attempts to maintain her rights as the copyright holder for Leda and the Swan and other pieces.

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