LaBudde | Gaylord Marr Collection

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Scope and Content of Collection

The Gaylord Marr Collection was a gift of Olga Marr in the summer of 2011. The expansive nature of this collection is a reflection of Professor Marr’s long and prestigious career in academia. A series of personal documents feature Marr’s private diaries and many manuscripts of his own writings, as well as material from his college years and other items related to his day to day life and career. Marr’s teaching life is represented here by many documents and course materials related to his work at the university level, along with writings and other documents related to the categories of the classes he taught (Radio, Speech, etc.). A periodical series, featuring magazines, newsletters, publications, and newspaper clipping, along with over 22,000 photographs from TV shows and films, reflect Marr as the consummate collector. The work he did in the theatre has its own large series, and contains documents and memorabilia from countless productions. A large portion of the photograph series are images from Marr’s theatre work.

Biographical Sketch

For 27 years Gaylord Marr taught in the communications department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where his innovative approach to classroom teaching influenced innumerable students. His vast personal collection of sound recordings formed the core of a sound archive that continues to be of inestimable value to music fans and musicologists alike. Though he spent most of the early years of his career in the theater, he said he wanted to be remembered foremost as a teacher.

Marr grew up on a farm in Seward, a small town in eastern Nebraska, 25 miles northwest of Lincoln. After serving in World War II as a medic, he entered the University of Nebraska and earned a master’s degree in dramatic arts in 1951. He then moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a writer, set designer, costume designer, actor, and director. In 1953 he started the Gallery Theatre in Hollywood but closed it in late 1954 due to financial problems. In 1955 he moved to Bakersfield, California, to take a job as director of the Bakersfield Community Theatre. He remained in that position until 1960. From 1954 to 1960, he was director of the Bakersfield Civic Theatre in Bakersfield, California.

In 1960, Marr and his wife Olga moved to Kansas City where he served as artistic director of the Resident Theater of the Jewish Community Center. His first production, in 1961, was Leslie Steven’s Marriage-Go-Round. Productions of The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt and All the Way Home by Tad Mosel received high critical acclaim.

In 1963 Marr left the Resident Theater and founded the Mark Playhouse, a theater located on West 75th Street, near Wornall Road, that mounted classic comedies and dramas. Due to competition from other theatrical venues and internal problems with the theater’s staff, the Mark lasted just six months.

After the Mark closed, Marr worked for a time for Boxoffice Magazine, a trade journal for the movie theater business, which had an office in Kansas City. Patricia McIlrath, founder of the Missouri Repertory Theatre (now the Kansas City Repertory Theatre) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, had seen the Mark’s productions and invited Marr to work with the Missouri Rep as an actor and director. By that point, Marr’s attitude toward the theater had soured. Instead, he joined the faculty of the Radio, TV and Film Department (now the Communications Department) at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

Marr taught writing, communications, and the history of media at UMKC for the next 27 years. He pioneered the use of sound recordings, video, and other new media in the classroom. An intellectually demanding teacher, he mentored many students and was recognized three times as Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher.

During his years of teaching, Marr amassed an enormous collection of sound records and videos. In 1986 Marr and his wife donated 42,000 sound records to the Miller Nichols Library at UMKC, many of which he had used in his courses. Valued at about $250,000 at the time, the donation became the foundation of the Marr Sound Archives, and Marr served as the archives’ first curator. The archives has since grown to include over 300,000 sound records, in addition to photographs, videos, sheet music, music-playing devices, and other items. It has earned an international reputation and is recognized as a leader in the field of audio preservation and the creation of digital collections featuring sound. It is used regularly by music enthusiasts as well as researchers from all over the world.

Marr died on June 13, 2006 after a month-long illness.

Source: Conrads, David. “Gaylord Marr: Educator and Sound Recording Collector, 1923-2006.” Missouri Valley Special Collections. Kansas City (MO) Public Library, 2009. Web. 16 Aug. 2013.

 

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