Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association

ARCHIVING THE INTANGIBLE: THE PLAYWRIGHT WILLY RUSSELL’S PERSONAL ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association (2013), 39, (127), 50–61.

Abstract

Willy Russell is a playwright whose work has enjoyed worldwide success and acclaim, and in 2013 his personal archive collection was deposited at the Special Collections and Archives of Liverpool John Moores University. Collections of material relating to the theatre focus upon performances which are presented to a live audience and live works cannot be captured or stored in an archive repository. A theatre archive, therefore, may contain a great and large selection of supporting and related material, but cannot contain the collection’s object and focus. This presents archivists with the challenge of attempting to develop a means of preserving an intangible part of our cultural heritage. Using the Willy Russell archive as a case study, this article will examine the effect of the intangible nature of live performing arts on archive collections, and outline the ways in which theatre archives, by collecting and including as many forms of material from as many sources as possible, may provide a kaleidoscope of tangible items which allow the memory of the intangible to be invoked. It will also demonstrate the ways in which the collection is used by Willy Russell to inform and assist in new productions of his works.

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Author details

Smith, Jessica