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National Archive accreditation for ‘innovative and impressive’ Theatre Collection

The Theatre Collection team with Valerie Johnson, Director of Research and Collection, The National Archives University of Bristol - thanks to Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Valerie Johnson (centre) with Jo Elsworth and Professor Hugh Brady - Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol University of Bristol - thanks to Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Jo Elsworth with acclaimed actor Timothy West University of Bristol - thanks to Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Press release issued: 25 September 2017

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection – one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history and live art – has been awarded official recognition from the UK Archive Service Accreditation Committee, part of The National Archives.

The collection is the first of its kind in Bristol, the only university museum and just the fourth museum in the country, to receive the Archive Service Accreditation – the UK quality standard for archive services.

The Theatre Collection, founded in 1951, is an accredited museum and research centre with collections covering the period 1572 to the present day.

It has strong links with local theatre companies and actors and holds the archives of several local companies including Bristol Old Vic, Desperate Men and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory.

Most recently it acquired the archive of Oliver Messel the renowned 20th century designer and playwright/actor Kevin Elyot whose works includes the seminal play ‘My Night with Reg.’

The collection literally holds hundreds of thousands of items ranging from costumes, props, personal effects, scripts, playbills and posters. It is a research resource for the members of the University of Bristol and the Bristol community.

In its report, the panel from the UK Archive Service Accreditation Committee congratulated the service on its impressive, well developed offer to a range of communities and the effective ways it has sought to maximise impact from its activities.

The report says: “Bristol University Theatre Collection has an exceptionally strong grasp of its broad network of stakeholders, and their needs. This enables them to deliver impressive outcomes across the board, with outstanding academic delivery and a real capacity to support wider social outcomes.

“The service is notably innovative and impressive in its determination to grasp challenging issues and to share practice with the wider archives and museum world.”

Jo Elsworth, Director of the Theatre Collection, said: “We are very proud to have been awarded   Archive Accreditation. To be the first university museum, and only one of four other museums in whole country to receive this accolade, is really special.”

An accredited archive service is:

  • Externally recognised for their good performance in all aspects of governance and management, collections management, and provision of services to all users
  • Sustainable and robust, ensuring the long term acquisition, preservation and accessibility of our archive heritage
  • Adaptive, relevant and resilient in a changing internal and external environment
  • Clear about their mission, ensuring effective planning, decision making and optimal use of resources
  • Responsive to all their stakeholders and trusted in the management of their unique collections
  • Supported by expert staff within clear and effective governance structures

Further information

Accredited Archive Services ensure the long-term collection, preservation and accessibility of the UK’s archive heritage. Accreditation is the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery. Achieving accredited status demonstrates that collections and services have met clearly defined national standards relating to management and resourcing; the care of its unique collections and what the service offers to its entire range of users.

Archive Service Accreditation is the UK standard for archive services.  It defines good practice and identifies agreed standards within the archive sector. It is a UK wide quality standard which offers a benchmark for gauging performance, recognising achievement and driving improvement within the archives sector. Archive Service Accreditation is awarded by the UK Archive Service Accreditation Committee, representing the entire archive sector.

It is supported by a UK wide partnership of The National Archives, National Records of Scotland, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Welsh Government through its CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales division, Archives and Records Association, Scottish Council on Archives, and Archives and Records Council Wales. 

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