16 May 2023 / News

Standing Room Only: Curating A Wealth of Theatre History with Limited Resources

A virtual symposium of SIBMAS, by New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

June 12, 2023

Performing Arts collections in general, and Theatre Collections in particular, pose distinctive challenges for archives and museums. A book, painting, or musical score exists as a final product that can be studied years after the event. Theatre, on the other hand, is an ephemeral event that is captured only partially in the collections of the many individuals and companies associated with the production. These documents do not fit neatly in a manuscript box but often consist of large format paint renderings; scrapbooks; technical designs; models; fabric-filled costume bibles; audio and moving image material; and digital files created with specialized software.

As the creators of theatre in the mid-20th century retire and pass away, there is an enormous amount of this kind of material documenting the past century of theatrical work that is now in significant danger of being lost unless it can find a home in a cultural heritage institution. Existing theatre archives are now struggling to find space to responsibly house all of the material that researchers will need in the future.

In this full day public online meeting, curators of several of North America’s largest theatre archives will meet to discuss how each is addressing the present day challenges of documenting theatre. We will also hear from researchers who regularly use these collections and what they find both helpful and challenging in these archives. The meeting will conclude with an open discussion of how to ensure theatre history is preserved within the resource limitations of the 21st century.

Schedule (in NYC time: add 6 hours for Western Europe time, 5 hours for London or Dublin)

June 12, 2023
11:00 Welcome and introduction
11:30-12:30: Panel discussion of the archives by current curators
12:30-1:30: Break
1:30-2:30: Panel discussion among researchers in theatre archives
2:30-2:45: Break
2:45-3:15: Wrap up discussion



Mark Horowitz at Library of Congress

Dale Stinchcomb at Harvard

Beth Kattleman at Ohio State University

Melissa Barton at Yale

Harriet Reed at the V&A

Anna Lawaetz at Royal Library of Denmark