Mander & Mitchenson Collection

Overview

The Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection (M&M) is completely unique - the result of the lifetime’s work of Raymond Mander (1911 - 1983) and Joe Mitchenson (1911 – 1992) collecting the archives and ephemera of Britain’s theatrical history.

Joe and Raymond met as young actors in London in the 1930s. They became partners both in life and in passionate collecting of books, props, scripts, set designs, costumes, Georgian tinsel prints, sculptures, playbills and music scores, photographs and paintings, and Victorian mantelpiece figurines of famous actors. With their theatrical connections they had a privileged insight and access to the theatre world “backstage” and the result is a wonderful collection, internationally recognised for its quality, which reflects the public and private “life” of theatre from the 18th century to modern times.

As an independent charity, M&M was already one of the three largest theatre history archives in the country. In 2009, when it became clear its operation was no longer financially viable, the Trustees began the process of finding the most appropriate new home for the collection. In December 2010 it was legally transferred, in its entirety to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, and following this acquisition we believe, the joint collections now form the second largest British Theatre History archive in the world.

What the collection holds

At the heart of the collection are 1,500 “reference boxes”. These contain a myriad of information and material including playbills, posters, programmes, engravings, news cuttings, photographs, scripts, correspondence, prompt copies, designs and more, dating from the early 18th century. Thematically arranged, the boxes cover, every actor, director, producer, writer, composer and musician of note over the last 200 years alongside all London and many regional theatres. Most importantly, the often neglected areas of popular entertainment are very well documented including  sections on  individual entertainers, circus acts (acrobats, trapeze, Indian acts etc), Music Hall, Variety, puppets, minstrels, toy theatres, speciality acts (jugglers, ventriloquists, dwarfs(!)), magic and comedy. Many of these are areas that have rarely been documented or collected before and consequently it is extremely important to catalogue them and make available to the maximum range of users.

In addition to the reference boxes, there are another 1,000 boxes of personal archives containing ephemera, costumes, artwork, audio recordings objects, props and much more. The material was collected through sales, auctions and donations from friends such as Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, Somerset Maugham, Angus McBean and Dame Sybil Thorndike. The whole collection is particularly strong in 18th and 19th century theatre history, although it continues up to the present day, and was used by its creators to write no fewer than 19 books on theatrical subjects including Hamlet through the Ages; The Gay Twenties; The Theatres of London and The Lost Theatres of London which are all still widely referred to today. In addition, images of documents and photographs from M&M have been consistently and frequently used in a wide range of other peoples publications - both academic and coffee table - over the last 40 years and continue to be so. The media also make regular use of the visual material held within M&M.

The Mander & Mitchenson Reference Box Collection has been catalogued with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
MM - Mander & Mitchenson Collection.

Further information

The rest of the Mander & Mitchenson Collection is being assessed and prioritised for cataloguing. The catalogues for 

Photographs from the Mander & Mitchenson Collection may be ordered through ArenaPAL (+44 (0) 20 7403 8542), but only of items for which images are already available.

External Links

Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson by June Mendoza (b.1924)
Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson by June Mendoza Image credit: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
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