Press Release

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Katherine E. Johnson Vice President, Communications (212) 875-5700;

For Immediate Release

Barbara Haws Named Archivist and Historian Emeritus Upon Retirement from NY Philharmonic


Haws To Retire from the Philharmonic After 34-Year Tenure
To Pursue Doctoral Degree from University of Oxford, Researching
Philharmonic Founder Ureli Corelli Hill

The New York Philharmonic has named Barbara Haws Archivist and Historian Emeritus for her leadership role in the creation, curation, and expansion of the Philharmonic’s extensive Archives for almost 34 years. She will retire from the Philharmonic in August 2018 and pursue a doctorate in musicology when she matriculates at New College, University of Oxford, in October.

Over the course of three-and-a-half decades as Philharmonic Archivist / Historian, Ms. Haws amassed and added to the Philharmonic Archives through research and acquisition. She also made the remarkable American cultural resource accessible for free throughout the world by launching and developing the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives.

“Barbara has been an indispensable colleague in the more than 25 years we’ve known each other,” said Deborah Borda, New York Philharmonic President and CEO. “Her pioneering work in the Archives has produced an invaluable resource for the world, one that allows us to clearly see how the New York Philharmonic’s history is the history of our city, our country, and classical music in America. Barbara’s creativity in crafting events and stories around this material, and her innovation and foresight in establishing the Digital Archives, has positioned the Philharmonic as a leader in this area. Though her departure from the Philharmonic will be felt deeply, we are proud that Barbara will be representing this Orchestra at Oxford.” 

At Oxford University, Ms. Haws will be researching and writing about Ureli Corelli Hill, the Philharmonic’s founder and the first American musician to study and perform abroad (1835–37). Her research will investigate how his landmark journey shaped the early years of the New York Philharmonic and contributed to its success. 

“Barbara has played a unique role at the New York Philharmonic, always keeping us meaningfully connected to the rich history of this great organization — its past, present, and future,” said Oscar S. Schafer, Chairman of the Philharmonic. “We are so proud of the work she’ll be doing at Oxford, exploring the Philharmonic’s founder and maverick New Yorker, Ureli Corelli Hill. We can’t wait to learn what she discovers. Oxford University’s gain is also the New York Philharmonic’s gain!”

“My journey with the Philharmonic has been filled with the greatest musical and intellectual rewards and the most supportive friendships,” said Barbara Haws. “I am particularly honored and humbled by Deborah Borda’s offer to name me Archivist and Historian Emeritus, which, without a doubt, makes the difficult and emotional process of leaving my day-to-day life with the world’s greatest Orchestra a little easier. Oxford is a wonderful opportunity for me and is a great tribute to and affirmation of the significance of the Philharmonic’s early history. So, although I will not be in New York this fall, I will not be far from the Philharmonic that I love so dearly.”

Barbara Haws’s landmark achievements during her Philharmonic tenure include:

  • Creating the first comprehensive performance history database of any symphony orchestra
  • Directing the design and construction of the state-of-the-art Research Archives
  • Serving as Founding Executive Producer of New York Philharmonic Special Editions; collaborating with Sedgwick Clark in producing five major CD box sets (i.e. 57 discs) of historic recordings over five years, each containing a 500-page booklet with archival material and some garnering Grammy Award nominations and the Cannes Classical Prize
  • Establishing a Philharmonic exhibition program, with both changing and permanent installations in David Geffen Hall as well as collaborations across New York and Europe
  • Working with composer John Adams on his Pulitzer Prize–winning On the Transmigration of Souls, co-commissioned by the Philharmonic as a memorial to those lost on 9/11; the recording of the premiere won three Grammy Awards, including Best Recording of the Year, which Ms. Haws accepted on behalf of the Orchestra
  • Working with James North to publish the Orchestra’s first discography
  • Acquiring complete marked score libraries of former Music Director Leonard Bernstein and Erich Leinsdorf, plus important items from the collections of Artur Rodziński, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Kurt Masur
  • Acquiring the diary of Philharmonic Founder Ureli Corelli Hill, along with countless other historic music materials related to the history of the New York Philharmonic
  • Developing and launching the Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives — the world’s largest digitization project by a single institution in time span and comprehensiveness — made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation under the leadership of Shelby White

Barbara Haws was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, the daughter of an agricultural agent and a school teacher, and attended East High School in Lincoln. Ms. Haws graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a B.A. in History and moved to New York City in 1977 to work for the Council on International Educational Exchange. She enrolled in New York University’s history department, which offered the newly established Archival Management and Historical Editing program, and received her M.A. in 1983. Her early career included developing the archives of the Bowery Savings Bank (founded in 1834) and organizing the personal holdings of the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson. She was elected president of the Archivist Roundtable of Metropolitan New York and is a founder of New York Archives Week.

In late 1984 the New York Philharmonic created a permanent staff position of Archivist / Historian to manage and interpret its sizable historic collection comprising material dating back to its founding in 1842. The first to hold the post, Ms. Haws used these holdings to reveal previously unexplored humanities issues — social, political, and economic — integral to the development and success of America’s oldest symphony orchestra.

Over the decades Barbara Haws has been an active spokesperson for the Philharmonic’s history and its relevance today, spearheading many public events and projects. Her contributions to the Orchestra’s 150th anniversary celebrations included the installation of a major exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts titled The Orchestra and the City: 150 Years of the New York Philharmonic. In 1994 the Philharmonic opened the Bruno Walter Gallery on the Grand Promenade of Avery Fisher (now David Geffen) Hall, which has hosted almost 100 exhibitions focused on the Orchestra, its music, and its place and experience in New York City. Ms. Haws has also worked on large-scale exhibitions both in the United States and abroad, on topics ranging from former Music Director Dimitri Mitropoulos (Foundation for Hellenic Culture, New York, 1995) to the 175th anniversaries of the New York Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic (which opened in New York and traveled to Vienna, 2017; the New York exhibition is available at The Longest Run: New York’s Philharmonic, a multimedia exhibition that opened at the UBS Art Gallery in New York in 2003, became a permanent installation in David Geffen Hall.

To make the Philharmonic’s history available worldwide, in 2007 Ms. Haws spearheaded a collaboration with photographer Ardon Bar Hama and the Leon Levy Foundation to digitize 2,000 pages a day per camera; in less than three years three million pages of archival documents (including marked conducting scores, business documents, printed programs, and photographs) from the Philharmonic’s Leonard Bernstein Era, 1943–70, had been made freely available on the internet. The Leon Levy Foundation then provided an additional $2.5 million, and the National Endowment for the Humanities granted $325,000, to complete the digitization of all of the Archives’ holdings, 1842–70, plus all public-facing documents through the present. The performance history data of the world’s largest continuous set of concerts was also made available through Github through a Creative Commons license for anyone working in Digital Humanities or using large datasets for creative compositions, either musical or visual. The Leon Levy Digital Archives has also been used by the likes of Columbia University sociologists who, working under an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, used subscriber records dating back to 1842 to study relationships among elites in New York City.

In 2008, to mark what would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 90th birthday, Barbara Haws worked with his brother, Burton, to commission, write, and edit Leonard Bernstein: American Original (Harper Collins), a collection of essays on different aspects of Bernstein’s story, including his social activism, television work, and family life.

For the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary, Sony Classical engaged Ms. Haws to write the liner notes for its 65-CD collection of recordings, 1917–96. She also oversaw the launch of Listening Through Time, a podcast comprising interviews with current and former Philharmonic members while they listened to recordings of themselves and their predecessors playing the same work, analyzing how the interpretations or techniques have or have not changed over the years. Her most recent major event featuring Archival material was Bernstein’s Mahler Marathon, a 13-hour listening session hosted by Fred Child, presenting Bernstein’s recordings of Mahler’s symphonies accompanied by digital images of the scores Bernstein used when conducting the works.