Apollo Theater Cards Instructions

Thank you for being a digital volunteer! It’s very important that this work is performed in a standardized manner, so please make the effort to read and follow these instructions.

Our Transcription & Review Process

How the process works

We seek to balance quality and speed with our transcription process - which of course is still evolving as we continue to develop this service. At the moment, this is how our system works:

1) Anyone can start transcribing or add to a transcription of a document.

2) Once a volunteer decides they've "finished" and they are ready for review, a different volunteer (who must have an account on the site) can review the transcription and either send it back for edits, or complete the transcription.

3) The finished transcript is sent to the Smithsonian, where it may be used immediately, or undergo additional work.

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The Schiffman Collection: Apollo Theater Cards Project

The Apollo Theater hosted numerous performances by popular entertainers who were primarily African-American, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations from the early 1930s to the present.

In 1934, Frank Schiffman became the first manager of the Apollo Theater. Soon thereafter, he became co-owner, and retained the management position until the early 1960s. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Schiffman's sons, Jack and Robert assisted him with the management of the Apollo, and later took over management when Frank Schiffman's retired. To manage the Theater, the Schiffmans kept a number of different types of records, including “booking cards,” organized by the name of the artist, which detail the dates of performances; fees paid; and brief, but often quite candid, opinions on the quality of the performances, the performers and their drawing power (or lack of it). These helped the Schiffmans to determine future bookings and contracts.

This image courtesy of the Wiliiam P. Gottlieb collection at the Library of Congress, public domain: "Night view of the Apollo Theatre marquee, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948." Original image here.

You can also explore more of the Frank Schiffman Apollo Collection from the Archives Center at National Museum of American History's catalog record.

Navigating the Apollo Theater Cards Transcription Page

This project consists of transcribing information on the cards into 4 columns. The information on the cards are to be transcribed row by row (or line by line). When entering data in the bottom-most row, a new row will be generated. To navigate the page, please transcribe columns from left to right, labeled according to the column title. There are some inconsistencies in the arrangement of the cards; we ask that you use your best judgment as you transcribe and review the entries.

You may also adjust the size of the image window to help you focus on each row as you transcribe. You can save frequently. Be sure to type in all of the information you can for the fields in each section before you click the button at the bottom of the page that reads “Complete and Mark for Review.”

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Column Instructions

Please follow these instructions, while using your best judgment as you transcribe.

Columns 1: "Artist"

Please transcribe the Artist's name in First Name Last Name format. In the card above, the Artists is Gilbert Adkins.

Column 2: “Date”

The “Date” column contains information about the date of the photo shoot. Dates should be transcribed as YYYY/MM/DD - for example, 3-3-58 should be entered as 1958/03/03. In the card above, dates include 1958/01/08 and 1958/03/03.

Column 3: “Payment”

The “payment” column will capture information about the amount the performer was paid. Please transcribe as $###.## format.

Where a “ (ditto mark) appears, please copy the data from the previous line.

Column 4: “Comments”

Please transcribe the Comments as written, using your best judgment.

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Ready to Get Started?

Have questions? Please get in touch.

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