University of Bristol celebrates the arrival of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection
Press release issued: 7 June 2011
The world-renowned Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection (M&M), recently donated to the University of Bristol, has been safely relocated to its new home in the University’s Theatre Collection. This exciting acquisition, which ensures the long term future of the M&M Collection in its entirety, has created one of the world’s largest theatre collections dedicated to British theatre history.
On Tuesday [7 June], a launch event, hosted by Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Eric Thomas, will be held at the University’s Royal Fort House where nine of M&M’s finest paintings have been hung. It is the first time some of these paintings have been on public display for many years. However, the paintings, which are now on permanent display, represent only a fragment of the 350+ artworks in the M&M collection.
As well as paintings, the M&M collection – the result of a lifetime’s collecting by actors Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson – contains a unique combination of designs, audio recordings, props, photography, books, costumes, artefacts and ceramics plus a vast array of archival material comprising a ‘reference’ collection and personal archives (totalling 2,500 archive boxes).
It is estimated that there are more than 500,000 items in the ‘reference’ collection alone, which comprises 1,800 boxes full of press cuttings, photographs, correspondence, engravings, prints, programmes and personal ephemera. There is a file on every actor, writer, director and designer of note in British theatre for the last 200 years. This is accompanied by equally detailed records for almost every theatre that has existed in London in the past two centuries as well as many from the regions.
On its own, M&M provides an invaluably comprehensive record of British professional theatre. Its combination with the University of Bristol Theatre Collection’s extensive existing holdings has created an outstanding and insightful record of the history of British theatre, now thought to be one of the largest such archives in the world.
In recognition of the importance of this archive/collection the University has invested over £300,000 to create a new state-of-the-art storage facility to ensure the best possible conditions for the long term preservation of the objects, papers and artwork and other items held within it.
Professor Eric Thomas said: “The safeguarding of this important collection within the University’s Theatre Collection, an accredited museum and internationally renowned research resource, will create an unparalleled educational facility that is open to all; from students and academic researchers to theatre professionals and the media, as well as family historians and interested members of the public. The University is honoured to be chosen as the most suitable home for this esteemed collection.”
Jo Elsworth, Director of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection said: “We are delighted that the M&M Trustees have chosen Bristol as the new home for this distinguished collection. Combining our two great collections creates an outstanding record of the history of British theatre. We will now focus on caring for the collection and making it available so that current and future generations can study, learn from and, most importantly, enjoy it.
“By placing it in an accredited museum, the long term future of this wonderful collection is guaranteed. Through the personal and professional friendships of Raymond and Joe, we have a unique and insightful archive illustrating the public and the private side of theatre and those involved in it. For example, there are items personally donated to Raymond and Joe from actors, agents, artists, designers, directors and writers including Noël Coward, W. Somerset Maugham and Orson Welles, amongst many others.”