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Archiving to Curate, Promote,
and Honor Your Work & Legacy
DH Week | February 7, 2018
Tanya Elder and Noreen Whysel
American Theatre Archive Project
Artists and theatre companies are skilled at producing and
promoting their shows and seasons, but need knowledgeable support to
save and curate the records of their work.
The American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP)
seeks to help artists and theatre companies:
• Curate their stories
• Honor their legacies
• Establish protocols to capture and safeguard their
work for posterity
• Increase their visibility and attractiveness to patrons
and grant funders
WHO ARE WE?
ATAP is a collaboration of archivists,
dramaturgs, and academics who
support theatre makers in saving their
work as they make it for the benefit of
staff, associated artists, scholars,
patrons, and the public.
ARCHIVISTS THINK ABOUT:
• Archival evidence and principles
• Appraisal and analysis of records
• Retention schedules and collection policies
• Arrangement and description of materials
• Long-term preservation issues
• Public access
• Staffing and training
(So you don’t have to)
ATAP HELPS YOU THINK ABOUT:
• How to begin or continue archiving your work
• Separating the wheat from the chaff -- what should
be saved and what can be discarded?
• How production-related materials contribute to
• Considering long-term preservation strategies (e.g.
keep or donate to a repository?)
• Whether and how to make history available to the
• Production history: Are projects and seasons
documented? How? Where?
• Scripts and dramaturgy: Where are the script
versions, dramaturgical materials, and programs?
• Designs: Where are set models, costumes, props?
• Photos: Who has production or event images? Who has
the rights? How are they maintained?
• Electronic files: What file formats are used and where
are they stored?
• How do all of the above support your mission
and goals as artists?
ARCHIVES VS. RECORDS MANAGEMENT
• protocol(s) around
• Policies and practices
that ensure items are
• Establishing standards
for materials to be
BOTTOM LINE: A clear retention schedule allows artists
and theatres to be unafraid to throw things away and to
focus on records worth preserving.
Are there elements of the collection that you
would like to make available to the public?
• To your audience?
• To the community?
• To theatre historians/scholars?
Would you like to create an online presence
with your materials?
SOME BENEFITS OF PUBLIC ACCESS
• Enables permanent or pop-up displays of holdings
for public enjoyment.
• Allows practitioners and researchers to generate new
art and scholarship.
WHAT ATAP PROVIDES
• Introduction to archiving
• Survey of records and interviews with artistic
• Assessment of records and recommendations for
establishing an archive
• Workshop on archival practices
• Suggested resources (e.g. grant opportunities, supply
sources, consultants, cloud services)
BOTTOM LINE: Together, we develop concrete
steps to organize your artifacts and records for
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET STARTED:
• Archival boxes (banker’s or manuscript size)
• Acid-free folders
• Mylar or polypropylene sleeves
• Computer drive
• External hard drive
• Cloud-based repositories
• Photo, sound and video websites
• Github for computer code
THE BIG PICTURE – ATAP’S GOALS
• To preserve records of current theatrical process and
product for future generations.
• To leverage your legacy to maintain and promote current
and future work.
• To promote a better understanding of theatre as a vital
element of cultural history.
• To encourage scholarly research in contemporary
• To increase funding for establishing and maintaining
• To support collaborations among practitioners,
archivists, and scholars.
SELECTED PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR)
Theatre Library Association (TLA)
Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas
Performing Arts Roundtable of the Society of American
Theatre Communications Group (TCG)
The Lucille Lortel Foundation
Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York