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Supporting theatre and live art records at risk due to COVID-19

Lucy Powell, Keeper, Theatre Archives

Lucy Powell, Keeper, Theatre Archives University of Bristol Theatre Collection

3 December 2021

A project to find and support significant theatre and live art records at risk is underway at the Theatre Collection.

The impact of the pandemic on the performing arts sector has been severe, and we are concerned that archive collections could be lost. Records and especially digital records can be vulnerable to deterioration over time without ongoing care. In a bid to preserve the cultural history of the theatre industry, we are appealing to individuals and companies concerned about their records to seek advice on how to ensure they are preserved for the future.

There are many reasons why records might be at risk and the pandemic has only added to this with individuals deciding to retire early or leave the industry. Changes to leadership or ownership can also cause records to be vulnerable to disposal.

We are looking to find holders of records at risk and let them know how the Theatre Collection can support them in caring for their archives and, where appropriate, offer guidance in finding the best home for them.

Since the start of the pandemic, an increasing number of archives have been offered to us. However, we are concerned that there may be documentation and archives, which haven’t yet come to attention. These could be from individuals and companies that don’t know about us or other collecting bodies, or are not aware of the research value of their records.

We are particularly keen to ensure that archives from the whole spectrum of theatre activity are safeguarded for the future. Records will need to fall within the scope of our ‌Collections Development Policy (PDF, 500kB), and we will be sensitive to the possibility of alternative homes for the material.

We are looking to help individuals including but not limited to artists, backstage professionals, designers, directors, photographers, practitioners, producers, and writers, as well as organisations which have been affected by the pandemic and need help with caring for their archives, both digital and analogue.

There is lots of information on our website for individuals and companies looking for help with caring for their records. Alternatively, please contact Siân Williams, Project Archivist for the Theatre and Live Art Records at Risk project:

This project has been made possible thanks to funding from The National Archives COVID-19 Archive Fund.

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