Theatre Collection Projects
Centre Stage: Backstage
The University of Bristol Theatre Collection was recently awarded £22,371 by the National Archives by
National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.
The grant for the Centre Stage: Backstage project will enable 1,500 boxes of archival material from the
Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Collection (M&M) to be catalogued and made available to the public.
M&M was donated to the University's Theatre Collection in 2011, thus creating one of the world's largest collections
dedicated to British theatre history.
M&M is the result of a lifetime's collecting by actors Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson. It was acquired through sales,
auctions and donations from friends of Raymond and Joe such as Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, W. Somerset Maugham,
Angus McBean and Dame Sybil Thorndike.
Their reference boxes contain almost half a million documents including personal memorabilia, correspondence, playbills,
programmes, engravings, news cuttings, photographs, scripts, prompt copies, and designs. The boxes cover every actor, designer,
director, writer and theatre of note over the last 200 years. The boxes represent just one part of M&M which
in its entirety also contains a vast array of personal archives, artwork, costumes, artefacts, ceramics, photographs and props.
The grant from the enables us to take the vital first step towards unlocking the Collection’s full potential.
Raymond and Joe were actors with an insatiable appetite for collecting information about all aspects of theatre: the performances,
the places and the people who work within the industry. With their theatrical connections they had a privileged insight into the
world backstage. The result is a wonderful and unique collection which reflects both the public and private life of theatre.
This grant will enable scholars and the public to access and enjoy this fabulous resource.
The Public Catalogue Foundation
Over two hundred paintings in the care of the University of Bristol and its Theatre Collection are part of a hugely ambitious project to put online the United Kingdom’s entire collection of oil paintings in public ownership.
The PCF started making a photographic record of the UK’s oil paintings in 2003 and the Your Paintings website, built by the BBC, was launched with 63,000 paintings in June 2011. The project covers paintings not only held by museums and galleries but also works in universities, local councils, hospitals and even paintings held in fire stations, zoos and a lighthouse. Typically 80 per cent of these paintings are not on view whilst the vast majority have never been photographed. All oil paintings owned by the nation are shown irrespective of perceived quality and condition.
One hundred and nineteen paintings in the University of Bristol Theatre Collection feature on the website. The paintings, some of which were purchased with assistance from the Art Fund, form an integral part of the Theatre Collection’s wider holdings and include many images of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century actors such as Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry and John Gielgud as well as scenes and theatre interiors. Many actors are portrayed in character including David Garrick as Don Juan, Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Cardinal Wolsey in 'Henry Vlll' and Dorothy Tutin as Joan of Arc.
The University is one of 3,217 venues across the UK which have participated in the project which features a total of 211,861 paintings now on the Your Paintings website at bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings.
Medieval Plays in Modern Performance: Capturing the Archives
Professor of Medieval Studies, Pamela King, in partnership with the Bristol University
Theatre Collection, has secured funding from the Worldwide Universities Network for an
international archival project on the modern performance of medieval plays.
The religious drama of medieval England languished unperformed for almost 300 years.
One of the legacies of the mid-seventeenth-century Puritan regime that closed all theatres as
ungodly, was the much more long-lasting scrupulousness which forbade the impersonation of the
deity on stage. Although ‘playing God’ was not, as is commonly believed, prohibited by law,
generations of Lords Chamberlain customarily vetoed the performance of subject matter based
on the New Testament, with the full backing of Lambeth Palace.
The lifting of state censorship from the British theatre in the 1960s finally made possible
the reconstruction and re-interpretation of medieval biblical plays for modern audiences.
This, however, followed a succession of campaigns, pressure groups, and theatrical experiments
with these plays during the preceding decades of the twentieth century. In 1901, William Poel's
production of Everyman had sparked a new popularity for the play and the 1951 Festival of Britain
saw an explosion of interest in such works when the Mystery Plays were revived in York and Chester.
Bristol University Drama Department, the first of its kind in the UK, helped drive this forward
with such seminal productions as the Cornish Ordinalia in 1969.
The WUN funding will enable an international team of theatre scholars, led by Bristol, to link
all known archival traces of twentieth-century revivals, reconstructions, and adaptations of
English drama from the Middle Ages.
The project seeks to ensure that these unique archives are preserved for, and made accessible to,
future generations. Owners and custodians of relevant material are invited to contact the
project partners about what they hold.
The Medieval Players Archive Project
The Medieval Players Archive was donated to the Theatre Collection in early 2009 and funding from the
Glynne WIckham bequest to the Theatre Collection has enabled its sorting, re-boxing and cataloguing.
The Medieval Players were a professional touring theatre company throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
Their artistic policy realised an eclectic style which drew on research into medieval
principles of production, including juggling, fire-eating, dancing and music and their
archive is a comprehensive and substantial collection covering both the performing and
business aspects of the company.
The material in the collection relating to performance includes: posters; programmes;
press-cuttings and reviews; correspondence, including with critics, fan (and hate) mail;
videos of performances and workshops; and tour logs. On the business side, there are:
account books and other financial papers; Arts Council applications; and the Memorandum
and Articles of Association.
This collection will form an invaluable resource for the Worldwide Universities Network
supported project 2MP - Medieval Plays in modern performance: an international archive project.
Visualising Theatre Project
The Visualising Theatre digitisation project was implemented in 2006.
It was generously funded by MLA South West Programme Development Fund,
the University of Bristol Alumni Foundation,
the Vice Chancellor's Strategic Fund and the Faculty of Arts Research Director's Fund.
The project was carried out as an Arts and Business
skills bank scheme.
Thanks are also due to our project partners: Institute of Physics Publishing, Kerry Hopkins'
contribution to the skills bank scheme, TASI
(the Technical Advisory Service for Images) for technical and professional advice regarding
University of Bristol Information Services for implementation.
TASI (the Technical Advisory Service for Images)
have created a case study
of this digitisation project.
View a selection of the available images,
or search the online catalogue.
Teaching Theatre: Unlocking the Potential of the Professor Glynne Wickham Bequest Project
The Teaching Theatre cataloguing project was implemented in 2005.
It was generously funded by the
University of Bristol Alumni Foundation.
The Berta Freistadt Archive
The Berta Freistadt Archive cataloguing project was implemented in 2004.
It was generously funded by a donation by Berta Freistadt.
For further information about the Theatre Collection please tel. 0117 331 5086 (daytime) or email email@example.com.