About the Theatre Collection

The Theatre Collection is one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history and Live Art.

Founded in 1951 to serve the first UK university drama department, our collections cover the period from 1572 to the 21st century and our visitors include everyone from international scholars to family historians.

Since 1951, the University of Bristol Theatre Collection has expanded to become a fully accredited museum, fully accredited archive and theatrical research centre. It also continues to serve its original purpose as a theatrical research resource for the members of the University of Bristol and the Bristol community.


Our acquisition policy focuses on British theatre history, with particular strengths of theatre in the South West, nineteenth-century theatre, Post-Second World War theatre, live art and performance art, scenery and costume design, and other related artwork.

The development of our collections has been dependent on the generosity of others, with a large proportion of the holdings coming from donations and bequests from enthusiasts and professionals who share the desire to preserve a record of theatre in Britain.

The Theatre Collection as a museum

Refurbishment in 1998 improved accessibility, study and storage conditions and in 2001 the Theatre Collection was awarded full Registered Museum status by the Museums and Galleries Commission.

In 2009 it was awarded full Accredited Museum status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. A major cataloguing programme has computerised information of over 100,000 items. The Theatre Collection was also involved in Backstage, a collaborative project to provide a theatre gateway on the Internet, and the digitisation of images for online access.


The Theatre Collection stands at the forefront of theatre research through the support of its parent body, the University of Bristol. It is also indebted to the generosity of one of theatre's greatest enthusiasts, Dr Eric Jones-Evans.

Read our TC Statement of Purpose (PDF, 68kB).

View our policies.

Jo Elsworth, Director (left) and Bex Carrington, Former Keeper: Live Art Archives (right)
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