Joseph Nieminski Papers
Scope and Contents
The Joseph Nieminski Papers span Nieminski’s nearly fifty year career (1956-2001) as a set designer and include set models, draftings, painter’s elevations, sketches, slides, photographs, programs and clippings representing his broad scope of work on productions at the Goodman, St. Nicholas, Ivanhoe and Court theaters, among others.
Of note in the collection is material related to A Christmas Carol as produced at the Goodman. The first production of A Christmas Carol (1978) includes the most material including draftings and set models. Materials are listed for all years associated.
Nieminski wrote comments that offer his insight and memories of working on each show. These comments have been included in the collection inventory below and have been edited only for format. Nieminski also provided commentary from productions that do not have a physical representation in the collection. These are listed in the inventory, but have no associated files. Nieminski’s original comments may be viewed upon request.
- 1956 - 2001
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection
Biographical / Historical
Joseph Nieminski was born and raised in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. He became interested in scenic design as a school boy watching illusionistic scenery painted on the stage at Parish Hall for Becker Brothers Studio. Nieminski attended the School of the Art Institute (1955-1959) and earned a BFA in Advertising Design. After working in advertising and serving in the U.S. Army, where he provided scenic design for a service club production at West Point, he went on to study Scene Design at the Goodman School of Drama (1967-1970), earning a second BFA. Upon completion, he became a member of the United Scenic Artists of America. From 1970 until his retirement in 2001, Nieminski worked as a freelance set designer and scene painter. He was awarded the Charles MacArthur Award by the Chicago Drama Critics League for Lysistrata (Ravinia Festival), Suddenly, Last Summer and The Hot L Baltimore (both Ivanhoe Theatre). He received more than ten Jeff Award nominations and won for A Christmas Carol, Design for Living and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (all Goodman Theatre). A Christmas Carol was produced annually, using Nieminski’s award winning sets, for more than 20 years. From 1979 to 2011, Nieminski served as an adjunct faculty member of the Goodman/DePaul Theatre School. In 1995, Nieminski redirected his artistic talents, and began sculpting award winning, one-of-a-kind collector dolls.
96.75 Linear Feet (in 56 boxes and 31 oversize folders, includes 955 drawings, 99 photographs, 314 slides, 55 models)
Language of Materials
Joseph Nieminski is an award winning set designer whose work has been seen at Goodman, St. Nicholas, Northlight and Court theaters, among others. The collection includes set models, draftings, painter’s elevations, sketches, slides, photographs, programs and clippings.
The materials in the collection are arranged chronologically by production. Due to the varying sizes of materials, items are housed by size and type. Boxes 1-3 are document cases, Boxes 4-11 are oversize (holding Oversize Folders 1-57), Boxes 12-13 include slides and photographs, Boxes 14-57 and Oversize Folder 79 include set models and pieces. Draftings and large elevations are housed in flat files in Oversize Folders 58-79.
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These materials were donated to the Special Collections and Preservation Division by Joseph Nieminski in 2012 and 2016. Models from A Christmas Carol (artifacts 2007.45a-t) were donated by Nieminski in 2001
- Photographs. Subject Source: Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms
- Slides Subject Source: Local sources
- Theaters -- Stage-setting and scenery -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Local sources
- Guide to the Joseph Nieminski Papers
- Processed by Sarah Zimmerman, 2013. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2021.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2021: Edited by Sarah Zimmerman to include box numbers in preparation for upload into ArchivesSpace.
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States