Thoughts on Theatre Archives Organization

Unorganized File Box

After spending some quality time with the Miracle Theatre Group’s archives, I have already developed some ideas on how to arrange this substantial collection.  After thirty years of accumulation, the miracle of the Miracle Theatre archives is their completeness and organization. Theatre folk are not normally known for their organizational skills, artistic, left brain types seldom are. However, these boxes and binders of theatre history actually lend themselves to an organized structure or “arrangement”, in archivists’ terms.

Archival collections are broken up into series and sub-series, think…”outline”.  The Miracle Theatre records generally fall into three main categories:

Accounting, Promotional, and Production Materials

      Series I:  Theater Operations and Finances

  Series II:  Productions (Theatrical Seasons)

            Series III:  Promotional Materials

Within these groupings are natural sub-series. Boxes of financial records and three-ring binders containing ledgers, grant applications and old receipts/bills. Records of the daily operations of a theatre group can be just as important to a researcher as play scripts or promotional photographs. This inventory of the Miracle Theatre Group has also shown that keeping absolutely everything is not the best practice.  Thirteen year old phone bills are well past the records retention date and should be purged from the boxes. A reduction of probably 1/3 of the original volume of accounting records will be achieved by using best practices of Records Management.

Records Management Examples

The Miracle Theatre has a long history of productions, community workshops and outreach. This involvement is well represented in the collection with various forms of media.   Posters, programs, photographs (of all types) and other ephemera have been gathered over the years and placed in storage. These items are of historical importance to the theater as well as the Latino/a community.  Sub-series within these topics will be arranged based on the Miracle Theatre’s yearly seasons. Playbills, tickets, and programs are currently stored in Zip-lock bags by season. Additionally, there are files of production materials such as budgets, lighting plans, costume designs, and artwork for these plays that still need to be inventoried.

This project began as an initial inventory of the Miracle Theatre Archives.  It has evolved into a lesson in arrangement and description, even before this process has officially started.

~ Mike Dicianna, Miracle Theatre Group Archives Project Intern

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