D’Oyly Carte Archive cataloguing on schedule for Spring/Summer 2018 completion

Since leaving us last year our archive has been taken into the collection at The British Library and staff there have been exhaustively cataloguing each item so that it can be easily accessed using the British Library’s accession reference system.

Katherine Johnson, curator of Theatre Archives and Manuscripts writes…

“Almost all the general correspondence has been listed in detail and placed in conservation grade folders and boxes, a stock of which is reserved for the D’Oyly Carte (DOC) archive work.  The original DOC archive numbers have been recorded in every case  and will be entered in IAMS, the Library’s online manuscripts and archives cataloguing system.  This will enable researchers to retrieve archival files by entering the old DOC number into the British Library system once the collection and the online description is opened for general use.  So far we have not rearranged the archive, but there be will a modest amount of rearrangement of materials to improve the logic and clarity of the sections.

Musical scores These have been listed in summary form.  We plan to transfer them to the care of our colleagues in the Music department who can make sure that these materials are catalogued by specialists, and can also ensure that the materials are boxed and bound as appropriate to music scores.  They are already the custodians of the autograph score of “Iolanthe” and several other musical items of exceptional rarity and high value.

Fabric The fabric swatches, samples, and the collection of peg dolls in exact reproduction of DOC costumes have been inspected by Elizabeth Rose, the British Library’s fabrics conservator.  She has advised us to put in a specific fabric conservation bid for specialist storage but confirmed that their current condition and storage is acceptable for the time being.  The records of all fabric items have been tagged with a conservation note so that these items will be quick and easy to identify from the lists.

Duplicate items We have not yet started detailed work on the collection of posters, but it is evident that there are a considerable number of duplicates.  As previously agreed we will be offering the duplicate items back to the D’Oyly Carte.  We have derived much pleasure from sorting through the boxes of DOC merchandise, and are planning to keep a representative sample with the archive and return the remainder to the DOC.There is also a very substantial quantity of original print blocks, which would be extremely difficult for us to keep at St Pancras and of limited value for future display, and we will accordingly be offering these back to the DOC at the end of the cataloguing project, along with a large box of gentleman’s white gloves, presumably formerly used by the gentlemen of the chorus.

In contrast, we have already been offered two small ancillary collections of related material (materials related to Robert Wilson, a soloist of the 1930s;  and, programmes not already represented in the archive): these will be separately catalogued and the appropriate links added to both records.

Research enquiries. We have fielded more than a dozen enquiries so far.  Our policy has been that where a researcher can be reasonably specific about the materials he / she wishes to consult, we will make the files available, but when an enquirer enquires about a much broader field, we have been declining with regret, and asking him / her to wait until we can make the whole catalogue available online.

Audition records We have not yet completed the detailed descriptions of the audition books and all the related paperwork, but we have discussed the issues arising from the application of the Data Protection Act, and will in due course decide on the appropriate date after which audition and personel details will remain closed to general enquiry.  The oldest volumes of audition slips (extremely large volumes) have already been identified as candidates for specialist conservation treatment.

The other  major sections awaiting detailed work are:

press cuttings : large volumes to be wrapped, cuttings in plastic binders to be transferred to acid-free folders

financial ledgers : volumes with new morocco spines to be wrapped, as necessary

posters : map cabinet earmarked for storage, boxes and storage tubes to be arranged as appropriate

DOC family correspondence(s) : correspondence and photographs to be placed in acid-free folders and boxes

With the exception of the family records and the auditions records, almost all the remaining work is relatively straightforward, as the volumes are numbered and clearly identified.  I would like to record my fervent thanks to Charlotte Dickerson whose attention to detail and determination has made it possible for the project to be far more advanced than we could have hoped at this stage”.