Brooks McNamara, Theater Historian, Is Dead at 72

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Brooks McNamara, a theater historian who shepherded a vast and disorganized array of letters, photographs, scripts, sheet music, set and costume designs, business records and other memorabilia into a valuable historical collection known as the Shubert Archive, died on May 8 in Doylestown, Pa. He was 72 and lived in Doylestown and Manhattan.

The immediate cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Nan. Mr. McNamara had been suffering from sporadic cerebellar ataxia, a degenerative nerve disorder.

The Shubert Archive was established in 1976 after the Shubert Foundation, the nonprofit entity that officially controls the theater-owning Shubert Organization, asked Mr. McNamara to appraise a mountain of material stored in Shubert theaters in New York and nationwide.

Over the next decade, Mr. McNamara, who was then a professor of performance studies at New York University, along with an archivist, Brigitte Kueppers and some 80 graduate student interns, worked to identify, catalog and store the reams of items that chronicle the 20th-century history of the nation’s most prominent theater organization.

The archive includes about six million items and is especially strong in documenting the period from 1900 to 1940. Housed in the Lyceum Theater on West 45th Street, it was opened to scholars and researchers in 1986. Mr. McNamara continued as its director until his retirement in 1999.

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