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.

Please visit our website regularly for the most current resources and don’t hesitate to share your feedback on this manual so we can continue to improve it. If you found this manual helpful, we’d love to hear from you too.

>>Download the Manual as a PDF<<


Preserving Theatrical Legacy: An Archiving Manual for Theatre Companies is written and edited by:

Susan Brady, Archivist, Beinecke Library, Yale University
Ken Cerniglia, Dramaturg & Literary Manager, Disney Theatrical Group
Maryann Chach, Archivist, The Shubert Archive
Jessica Green, Archivist, Simmons College graduate student
Helice Koffler, Archivist, University of Washington Libraries
Sharon Lehner, Archivist, Brooklyn Academy of Music
Tiffany Nixon, Archivist, Roundabout Theatre Company 

Acknowledgements: Our work is built on kindred efforts that have preceded ours, particularly by the Dance Heritage Coalition and the New Zealand Theatre Archive. This manual would not be possible without the continuous input of countless archivists, dramaturgs, literary managers, scholars, students, artists, administrators, and patrons who make use of what is in these pages and offer suggestions for improvement based on theoretical principles and practical experience.

Preserving Theatrical Legacy: An Archiving Manual for Theatre Companies
Version 1.3 (14 August 2015)

© 2016 American Theatre Archive Project, an initiative of the American Society for Theatre Research ( with the endorsement and support of:

Theatre Library Association
Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas
Performing Arts Roundtable, Society of American Archivists
Theatre Communications Group
University of Minnesota Performing Arts Archives
The Lucille Lortel Foundation

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.

Its goals are:

  • To preserve records of current theatrical process and product for future generations.
  • To employ theatre legacy to develop theatres’ fiscal health and support new work.
  • To promote a better understanding of theatre as a vital element of cultural history.
  • To encourage scholarly research in contemporary American theatre.
  • To increase funding for establishing and maintaining theatre archives.
  • To support collaborations among theatre archivists, practitioners, and scholars.

ATAP work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.