Presentation of the Departments of Collections and Archives of the Arts Institute – Theatre Institute for the SIBMAS Conference in Munich
Database of Photography and Scenography
The Department of Collections and Archives
The Department of Collections and Archives of the Arts Institute – Theatre Institute (IDU) acquires, catalogues, archives and makes available to the public those culturally valuable artifacts and archive documents that are related to theatre primarily in the Czech Republic. The Departments of Collections and Archives were established as separate departments in 2009, and in addition to the archives, their primary focus is the artistic and theatre articles of historical value from two distinct fields – theatre set design and photography. Our presentation in Munich will focus on these two disciplines.
The Scenography Collection
Scenographic artefacts have been in the possession of the Institute since the organisation was first established in 1959. At that time, the collection was created arbitrarily and grew primarily from the personal connections between the institute employees and the creators of the theatre productions. It was not until 2006 that the collection of the Theatre Institute, respectively the scenography collection, was registered at the Central Registry of the Collections of the Ministry of Culture, making it is possible to refer to the professional administration of the collection. Its continual and systematic growth is based on the acquisition activities that are overseen by its eight member advisory committee. The acquisitions are primarily donations or purchases from either the authors themselves or from those who have inherited the artefacts.
The aim of the collection is to methodically gather, store, catalogue, and present the significant works of Czech stage design, both from a historical perspective, as well as the current development of contemporary theatre. In addition to the works of the personalities who have greatly influenced the development of Czech theatre since 1945, priority of the collection is given to the contemporary works from the 1990´s. The collection contains works created by Czech stage and costume designers for the theatres in the Czech Republic and in particular those theatres abroad.
The collection includes primarily original stage and costume designs and models, which combine not only the value of the work from a theatre perspective, but also from the perspective as a unique piece of art. Both of these aspects are very important in terms of building the collection: neither the individual creative technique nor the use of materials is paramount during the selection of the subjects. The working papers and sketches have their own significance, as they are the original glance of the work process. Some of the most significant artists represented in the collection include Vlastislav Hofman, František Tröster, Josef Svoboda, Jan Sládek, Adolf Wenig, Otakar Schindler, Luboš Hrůza, Jindřiška Hirschová, Jan Vančura, Jan Skalický, Marta Roszkopfová, Petr Lébl and Sylva Zimula Hanáková.
The information about the basic identification of each artefact – including digital reproductions – is fed into the database (also linked to the Theatre database), which was created specifically for this collection. Currently 1,500 objects have been catalogued in the collection. One important aspect of the acquisition activities is not only the assurance of the proper preservation of the artefact, but also that they are accessible to the public. The Department of Collections and Archives will be organise together, or by itself, a variety of exhibition projects, where the artefacts found in the collection will appeal to the interest of the everyday spectator, as well as those specialising in the theatrical field, at home and abroad.
The Photography Collection
The collection of theatre photography is an entirely specific artistic discipline. This discipline is in its own right an original work of art that reveals the work the theatre production and, in an ideal case, its congenial interpretation. Moreover, its role is the combination of an artistic purpose, as well as a source of documentation. Both of these functions are equally important. Still however, theatre photography remains as a side interest of historians of photography and curators of collective photography exhibitions, as it is still regarded as a mere emotionless recording of the activities that take place on the stage. This is also probably one of the reasons why no comprehensive publications that address this unique phenomenon exist here in the Czech Republic or even abroad. Theatre photography has a very long tradition here in the Czech Republic. In the second half of the 20th century, Jaroslav Krejčí and Josef Koudelka cultivated this discipline into an irreplaceable artistic genre and has since become an attractive product that can be „exported“.
The Arts Institute – Theatre Institute has approximately 150,000 original photographs, slides and negatives. The systematic cataloguing of the photography collection began in 2008 as a branch of the „Preservation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage of Czech and World Theatre“, that was realized with the support of the Financial Mechanisms EHP/Norway.
Thanks to this, an unprecedented opportunity arose – a chance to capture, describe and make available those images that map the past 60 years of Czech theatre. Each individual photograph is assigned basic identification information that is entered into a database connected to the „Theatre“ database. Every entry contains information pertaining to its related production. Together with the visual information, researchers obtain a complete set of data including the names of the authors, the production team, and the performers. Earlier this year, the database was made accessible on the Internet (http://www.divadelni-ustav.cz/inscenace.aspx). Currently, the database has expanded to include more than 50,000 scanned photographs from nearly 4,000 productions. This is the work of more than 200 photographers, including Jaroslav Krejčí, Vilem Sochůrka and Viktor Kronbauer.