Photograph of the V&A Museum APAC and STR Symposium 2019 – Clear Sailing: Navigating the Archive

The Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) and the Society for Theatre Research (STR) are joining forces to bring you this symposium. On the back of the success and relevance of the APAC 2017 symposium focusing on bridging the gap between archivists and researchers, this symposium will look at the practicalities of this issue and question how communication between the two can be improved to the benefit of research.

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10.00-10.30 Arrivals

  • Introductions

10.30-10.40 Welcome (Erin Lee, APAC Chair and Head of Archive, National Theatre and Simon Sladen, STR Chair)

  • Theatre

10.40-11.00 Karen Brayshaw, Special Collections and Archives Manager and Dr Helen Brooks, Reader in Theatre and Cultural History, University of Kent – Hands-on History: Archiving Theatre History

11.00-11.20 Deborah Jeffries, PhD student at University of East London and Rose Bruford College and Paul V. Dudman, Archivist, University of East London – Archives, Austerity and Agency: a researcher/activist discussion on the role of archives in supporting new readings of theatre history

11.20-11.40 Eileen Cottis, Vice-president of the Society for Theatre Research – Experiences consulting archives in the mid nineteen-fifties

11.40-12.00 Lindsay Ince, Assistant Archivist, Heritage Quay – Exploring new routes in theatre archive research

12.00-12.20 Panel/questions (chaired by Simon Sladen)

12.20-13.15 Lunch

13.15-14.15 Workshop (facilitated by Simon Sladen and Erin Lee)

14.15-14.45 Break

  • Dance

14.45-15.05 Erica Charalambous, PhD student, Coventry University – Disappearing content and performativity in archives of dance

15.05-15.25 Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance, V&A – Astride the Archive: 40 years of both using and curating in theatre collections

15.25-15.45 Panel/questions (chaired by Bethany Johnstone, PhD student at UCL)

15.45-16.15 Caroline Sampson, Development Manager: National and Networks, The National Archives speaking on the refresh of TNA’s Guidance for Collaboration For Archives and Higher Education

  • Closing

16.15-16.45 Roundtable discussion

16.45-17.00 Closing remarks


Enter via the new Sackler Courtyard on Exhibition Road. Turn left into the Blavatnik Hall. Walk through the Shop and enter the Sackler Centre for Arts Education. The Hochhauser Lecture Theatre can be found on Level 1. A lift to Level 1 can be found in the lobby to the Sackler Centre for Arts Education.

Speaker abstracts and biographies

  • Hands-on History: Archiving Theatre History
    Karen Brayshaw and Dr Helen Brooks

In this co-presented paper Karen and Helen will detail the process of developing the innovative ‘Hands on History’ internship scheme which was launched at the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) in June 2019. The free two-week scheme brought together five members of the public with five post-graduate students and trained them in archival and conservation practices, including sessions on cleaning and preservation, cataloguing, and digitisation. In the second week of the scheme volunteers put their training into practice and worked on cataloguing the exciting new theatre history collections acquired by SC&A. The scheme built on years of collaborations in teaching and research, both between Helen and members of the SC&A team, and also between departments (including the Gateways to the First World War Project and School of Arts) which supported the scheme. As such it is an ideal case study for exploring the possibilities and challenges of collaborative working between academics and archivists. In this paper we will talk about the idea and development of the scheme, the challenges we anticipated and those we experienced, how we realised this innovative idea in practice, and finally how we hope to develop this and similar work in future.

Karen Brayshaw is the Special Collections and Archives Manager at the University of Kent.

Dr Helen Brooks is Reader in Theatre and Cultural History at the University of Kent.

  • Archives, Austerity and Agency: a researcher/activist discussion on the role of archives in supporting new readings of theatre history
    Paul V. Dudman and Deborah Jeffries

This will be a co-authored paper between the Archivist and a PhD researcher at the University of East London focusing on the challenges and opportunities on both sides of the archives/research divide in supporting access and engagement with archival collections. Archivist Paul Dudman will explore the challenges faced in managing a theatre based archival collection as a sole university archivist managing multiple archival collections on different themes across two university campuses. The opportunities presented by civic engagement funding will be considered in comparison to the challenges of managing archival collections in austere times and the challenges of digitisation, collection management and researcher expectations. PhD student Deborah Jeffries will critique her experience of working with archives across the UK and online. She will explain how the often-limited staffing provision in local history archives has resulted in a more personal and targeted response than that offered by some larger organisations. Her premise that ‘less can be more’ will consider how the signposting of resources can be of as much use to a very specific project as subject-specific help. It will also touch on how time management and focus are vital components of any visit to an archive.

Paul V. Dudman is the Archivist based within Library and Learning Services at the University of East London (UEL). He has been responsible for the Refugee Council Archive, British Olympic Association archive, Hackney Empire Theatre Archive and a growing collection of materials on Oral History and East London History. Paul’s research interests focus on the use of oral history in supporting refugee and migration narratives; refugee rights in records; archival research methods; community heritage and archival management.

Deborah Jeffries is a third year part-time PhD student working on a collaborative project between the University of East London and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. Her thesis, Legitimising London’s Victorian music hall investigates the architecture, licensing and purpose of London’s music halls from the eighteenth century to the present day. She focusses on the impact of the 1843 Theatres Act and the extent to which it was instrumental in the development of the notions of legitimate versus illegitimate theatre; with particular regard to the sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises.

  • Experiences consulting archives in the mid nineteen-fifties
    Eileen Cottis

I set out to work on late nineteenth century French and English theatre, and found my way, among other places, to the Enthoven Collection (when it was at the V and A), the Mander and Mitchenson Collection (when they lived in Sydenham), the Lord Chamberlain’s collection of plays (when it was at St James’s Palace), and the Fonds Rondel (at the Bibiothèque de l’Arsenal); also, incidentally, to the Society for Theatre Research, which was having an international conference at the time. Arrangements with these collections were much more leisurely than they would be these days, sometimes involving lengthy correspondence; but there were also fewer people consulting the collections, so much personal help was given.

Eileen Cottis MA (Oxon), French; B.Litt; taught French at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and later French and Drama at the North London Polytechnic (later London Metropolitan University). Member of the STR since 1955, later Hon Secretary; currently Vice-President.

  • Exploring new routes in theatre archive research
    Lindsay Ince

The Mikron Theatre Company have been bringing professional theatre to the UK by canal, river and road for nearly 50 years. After depositing their archive with the University of Huddersfield in 2013, the collection has been fully catalogued. This has led to the identification of new and underexplored research topics which have the potential to engage new and diverse audiences. While the University’s theatre department would be a natural audience for this material, their research interests lie elsewhere, which challenged us to explore opportunities for research with other non-theatre disciplines. We have worked with the depositors on important anniversaries, encouraged use of and engagement with the archive with the company’s Friends Group, and worked with University audiences from artists to oral historians to students starting out in archival research. This talk discusses some of the results of these collaborations, how expectations and access to material was managed, and how we want to work toward improving access and use of this multi-format and multimedia collection in the future.

Lindsay Ince has been the Assistant Archivist at Heritage Quay, the University of Huddersfield’s Archive Service since 2013. She has been responsible for cataloguing the institutional archives, and also has an interest in University Links, the archives programme to increase the use of collections in teaching and research. She has previously worked in medical, scientific and museum archives.

  • Disappearing content and performativity in archives of dance
    Erica Charalambous

As someone who come from a dance practice background and finds herself as an emerging researcher investigating dance archives along her PhD journey I have come across many interesting tensions between dance, the archive and the materiality of content. An archive consists of an organisational system; a taxonomy and categorisation which is orchestrated to position and sustain items (such as records), relate them to one another and make them findable (discoverable for further use). These records contain information of historical significance and upon discovery and analysis often portray the historicity of a place, era, event or subject. There seems to be an interesting tension in archives of dance between the record keeping system (the systematic and systemic), the content (ephemeral matters and uncategorizable items) and the generation of hybrid strategies according to location, cultural memory and the people invested in these collections. What does the journey of a single item; a performance remain; a dancing trace; through these archival digital and non-digital topographies reveal about choreographic practices and the archive? In this presentation, I would like to discuss how these archives are organised and to share what my current data collection and analysis reveal about these archives and their content.

Erica Charalambous is a dancer, choreographer and a PhD Candidate in a cotutelle research programme in Dance Digitisation at the Centre for Dance Research in Coventry University, UK and Deakin University Melbourne, Australia. Erica’s research focus is on the ‘moments’ of transference of dance into data within the organization, function and digital curation of dance archives in Germany, UK and Australia. Alongside her research Erica challenges the boundaries of her artistic practice through an un-published journal I am an Archive (ongoing project) funded by Hosking Houses Trust and Coventry University fund for a Writer’s Residency for Women Writers (2018); an experimental installation Dance Data Distillery (2018) at Digital Echoes 2018 at C_DaRE, and a video art digital performance installation Room under my skin (May- November 2018) at the Venice Biennale 2018.

  • Astride the Archive: 40 years of both using and curating in theatre collections
    Jane Pritchard

In 2020 I am co-editing an issue of Dance Research focusing on dance archives internationally. Throughout the periodical’s existence it has run a series on dance collections and archives and one of my tasks in this volume will be to update the picture that has emerged from those articles. At the same time as working in collections I have been using archives on an international basis which gives me a clear impression of both sides of the picture in bridging the gap between caring for and researching in collections. My presentation will highlight both the major changes and challenges I have experienced including the impact of collections being relocated and the development of on-line catalogues and digitisation. It will consider problems faced by large collections which can be overcome in smaller institutions and the changing attitudes of the parent bodies of archives and collections. I will also mention what one particularly appreciates when using collections and some problems that users create.

Jane Pritchard is curator of dance at the V&A having previously created the archives for Rambert and the Contemporary Dance Trust as well as served as archivist for English National Ballet. She has also curated exhibitions, seasons of dance films and presented archival material on radio and television and in lectures, as well as published books and articles. She has undertaken dance research in Europe, America and Australia.