About the Theatre Collection

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

The Theatre Collection was founded in 1951 to support the establishment of Drama as an academic discipline in the UK, and has grown to become one of the world’s leading collections relating to the history of British theatre and live art. The Theatre Collection comprises over 140 named collections and archives, including actors and collectors Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson.  It also holds artworks, audio visual material, costumes, designs, set models, playbills and programmes of this most ephemeral of art forms.  The collections are particularly strong from the late 18th century onwards and document life both onstage and offstage, providing a unique insight into theatre and live art, their creative processes and broader cultural contexts. The Theatre Collection’s holistic approach to collecting across archives and objects, and the interconnectedness between the collections, make it an outstanding research resource.

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 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 and live art in Britain.

The Theatre Collection has achieved both Accredited Museum and Accredited Archive Service status, and its collections have been Designated Outstanding by the Arts Council, England. 

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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