ATAP helps preserve records of current theatrical process and product for future generations.
ATAP promotes a better understanding of theatre as a vital element of cultural history.
ATAP supports collaborations among theatre archivists, practitioners, and scholars.

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Preserving Theatrical Legacy

PRESERVING THEATRICAL LEGACY: An Archiving Manual for Theatre Companies has been created for the busy theatre worker who loves this ephemeral art but is concerned about its place in history. Establishing and maintaining a functional archival program at a theatre company requires time, money, and long-term commitment. However, archiving is also adaptable to company mission, scalable to available resources, emotionally rewarding, and a great deal of fun.

Through its publications and training programs, the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) aims to help theatre companies develop an archival sensibility that saves time and money while preserving and making accessible records of theatrical process and product. ATAP focuses on establishing theatre archives on company premises rather than preparing records for transfer to an official archival repository, such as a library with a theatre collection. Theatre companies that are part of a larger organization, such as a university, will want to contact their institution’s archivist and/or records manager to determine what archival and retention policies and procedures are already in place, and use this manual accordingly.

This manual provides basic information about establishing and maintaining your theatre’s archives. As your company works through the process of assessing, surveying, appraising, storing, preserving, arranging, describing, and making accessible its legacy documents, ATAP archivists and documentarians are available to answer questions and recommend solutions to issues as they arise.


ATAP Initiation Program

The ATAP Initiation Program places an archivist-documentarian team with a theatre company to assess records of historical value and formally establish archives. The Initiation Program takes place over the course of one month and comprises the elements below. Session times vary depending on number theatre staff, records, etc.

Orientation: Preserving Your Theatre’s Legacy (90-120 minutes during week 1)
This interactive orientation provides an overview of the work ahead and generates a provisional archives mission statement that reflects the theatre’s values. It’s the “theory” before the practice begins.

Assessment (up to 6 hours of appointments during weeks 2-3)
The archivist surveys records and storage spaces and interviews staff about current and desired archival practices. Upon completion of the assessment, the archivist will submit a report with recommendations and follow-up questions to answer before the workshop.

Workshop: Establishing Your Theatre’s Archives (90-120 minutes during week 4)
This interactive workshop introduces and applies basic archival principles and practices based on the recommendations from the assessment. Theatre staff will leave with a refined mission statement, goals for the next quarter, specific tasks to take on immediately, and a formal committee to oversee the work ahead. The documentarian will work with staff to write a case study of the process that can be shared with other theatres and funders.

COST: The Program currently costs $1000: $600 covers archivist/documentarian stipends, and $400 goes toward archival supplies (boxes, hard drives, etc.) for the theatre company and applications for the Program can be submitted at any time. 

In recent years, ATAP has been able to occasionally offer a grant to one theatre company a year to cover the cost of this Initiation Program. Theatre companies interested in applying for this grant should indicate this on their application, and ensure their application is received by the annual grant deadline. Future grant announcements will be publicized and posted on this website. 

Participation in the ATAP Initiation Program is dependent on funding and the availability of trained archivists and documentarians in your area. 

OTHER RESOURCES: ATAP is committed to the preservation of American theatre, and the Initiation Program is one part of this effort. To help you get started on establishing your theatre’s archives with or without this program, check out our other resources and download ATAP’s free guide: Preserving Theatrical Legacy: An Archiving Manual for Theatre Companies.

ABOUT: The American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) supports theatre makers in archiving records of their work for the benefit of artists, scholars, patrons, and the public. An initiative of the American Society for Theatre Research, ATAP is a grassroots network of professional and student archivists, practitioners, and scholars dedicated to preserving the legacy of the American theatre by developing archival resources for theatre companies.

APPLY: If you would like your theatre to be considered for the ATAP Initiation Program, please fill out the application form.

Consulting Archivists

The American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) supports theatre makers in archiving records of their work for the benefit of artists, scholars, patrons, and the public.

If you have questions about archiving your companies documents, contact ATAP to be put in touch with the nearest regional team.

In cities where an ATAP team has not yet been established, theatres who are interested in organizing their archives may request a phone consultation with an ATAP archivist. The consulting archivist will introduce the ATAP Manual, discuss the theatre’s specific issues and concerns, and help develop next steps. The ATAP consulting archivists include ATAP team archivists who have volunteered for this service. Contact ATAP to be put in touch with a consulting archivist.

ATAP Listserv

Never miss out on the latest news and conversations from the American Theatre Archives Project by signing up for the ATAP Listserv. Messages include announcements, information about grants and opportunities, and other updates from the organization and its regional teams.

New members can subscribe and existing members can edit their subscription on the ATAP ListServ page.