Feature: 15 years of STC Archives

Date posted: 1 Sep 2011Author: STC

Image of the archives in 2001, prior to renovation

Until 15 years ago, Sydney Theatre Company had a decidedly casual attitude to the art of archiving. In spite of this, members of staff – including our current Workshop Manager John Preston – instinctively understood there was value in the hundreds of documents that passed through the hands of the company each year, yet there was no formal system in place to keep them. Scripts, contracts, photos and documents floated around and, knowing they would be of interest in the future, John and his colleagues began stockpiling paperwork and various forms of media including videos, slides, plans and designs.

John has revealed that he had the ingenious system of leaving cardboard boxes next to desks, with a request for colleagues to file their records therein after each show. He regularly retrieved the contents and stored them as best he could. He also wrote a brief, pointed report describing the perilous condition of the material, with suggestions for what could be done about that. Three copies of the same report, with a new date in subsequent years, are held in the archives, as evidence of his tireless attempts to create a dedicated archives' repository. When asked why he was so committed to the idea, he replied that he felt that the work was important, and that preserving the documentation of this impermanent art was a mark of respect.

Eventually, after passionate lobbying from the staff and support of donors, the company established the STC archives. In September, the archives will be 15 years old and, under the patient and meticulous care of our archivist Judith Seeff, it has become an Aladdin's cave of theatre and administrative history.

On 22 August the company gathered for a 15th anniversary morning tea party, at which General Manager Patrick McIntyre thanked those people instrumental in securing and establishing an archives' function for the company, including: Wayne Harrison, Artistic Director at the time, who, from the date of his appointment in 1990, worked towards the creation of a company archives; the STC Pier Group, (voluntary friends of the company who raise funds for worthy causes at STC), Anne Schofield, Sally Murray, Yvonne Dornan and the late Thea Waddell, who worked hard to finance the archives' project, as well as drive it; the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, which generously donated grants for the building of the archives' repository in 1996 and its subsequent 2005 renovation, designed by award-winning architect of The Wharf, Viv Fraser; the hard-working archives' volunteers; and the members of staff who assiduously collected the records of company operations ensuring that the archives holds material right from inception of the company in 1978, and not only what was deposited after the establishment of the archives in 1996.