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University of Bristol provides permanent new home for the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection

Costume design for Regan, Roger Furse, Drawing, 1940

Costume design for Regan, Roger Furse, Drawing, 1940 Roger Furse courtesy of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection

Press release issued: 19 November 2010

The world-renowned Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection is transferring to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection – an exciting move that will create one of the world’s largest theatre history collections. The combination of artwork, recordings, props, photography, costumes and ceramics with a vast array of archival material will provide a comprehensive record of British professional theatre.

The safeguarding of this important collection within the University’s Theatre Collection, which is an Accredited Museum, will create an unparalleled research facility that is open to all; from students and academic researchers to theatre professionals and the media, as well as family historians and interested members of the public.

William Tayleur, Chairman of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection said: “We are delighted by the accession of the material collected by our founders Ray Mander and Joe Mitchenson into the University of Bristol’s collections.

“The Trustees of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection know this will safeguard the collection for future generations to enjoy and use, through the fantastic research facilities available both online and in person at the University of Bristol.”

Jo Elsworth, Director of the University of Bristol Theatre Collection said: “We are delighted that this distinguished collection will be coming to Bristol.  Combining these two great collections creates an outstanding record of the history of British theatre.  The Mander & Mitchenson Collection is particularly strong in material relating to the London stage and 18th- and 19th-century theatre making it a superb addition to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection which has a wealth of material on regional  and 20th century theatre.

“By placing it in an Accredited Museum the long term future of this wonderful collection is guaranteed.  The University of Bristol Theatre Collection has the expertise and experience to care for the Collection to the highest professional standards and is committed to ensuring its preservation and accessibility so that current and future generations can study, learn from and, most importantly, enjoy it.”

Roy Clare, Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council said: “I am very pleased to hear this news, which promises to ensure the sustainable future of this important collection, and widen access to it.  The Bristol University Theatre Collection is highly regarded and an Accredited Museum: moreover, while an integral part of a Drama Department that is both the oldest and one of the best in Britain, it is also open to many other users including the general public.  In difficult times, I congratulate the Trustees and the University on both the practical good sense and forward-looking vision this arrangement represents.”

The move is supported by funding from the Noël Coward Foundation and the Mackintosh Foundation.

The Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection

The Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection (MMTC) is one of the largest collections of theatre and performance-related material in the UK.  It exists thanks to the lifetime's work of Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, who met as young actors in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the London Docklands Settlement in the East End in the late 1930s and formed a professional and personal partnership that lasted until Raymond's death in 1983.

The Collection consists of more than 2,000 archive boxes containing playbills, posters, programmes, engravings, cuttings and production photographs of London and regional theatres.  There are files on every actor and actress of note in the British theatre, and sections on circus, dance, opera, music-hall, variety, dramatists, singers and composers, together with many engravings and pictures.  The Collection also includes many theatre paintings, as well as set and costume designs and 500 pottery figures.

For almost ten years, the Collection has been held within the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts as part of the Trinity Laban campus at King Charles Court, Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.  The transfer to Bristol has been mutually agreed between all parties (Trustees of the Mander & Mitchenson Collection, University of Bristol , Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Jerwood Foundation).  The Trustees of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection acknowledge their deep gratitude to Trinity Laban and particularly to the Jerwood Foundation for their support in giving the Collection a home at the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts  for close to a decade.

University of Bristol Theatre Collection

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection is an accredited museum and research centre dedicated to the study of British theatre history.  It is the second largest theatre history archive in the UK and the largest in a higher education establishment.  It was founded in 1951, by the University of Bristol, which was also the first in the UK to establish a Drama Department.  It is open to all.

It holds a vast collection of original documents, photographs, artwork and artefacts from theatres, actors, designers, photographers and much more. Significant archive collections include London Old Vic, Bristol Old Vic, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Julia Trevelyan Oman, the Live Art Archives and a large design collection of more than 5,000 original set and costume designs.  The Theatre Collection welcomes visitors locally and from all over the world.

The Theatre Collection is based at 21 Park Row, Bristol BS1 5LT. 

The Noël Coward Foundation

The Noël Coward Foundation was set up as a charitable Trust in 2000 by Graham Payn and Dany Dasto to promote the education of students and others in the arts of drama and the theatre, and for other charitable purposes in connection with drama and the theatre.

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)

Leading strategically, the MLA promotes best practice in museums, libraries and archives to inspire innovative, integrated and sustainable services for all.

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