Mezinárodní organizace
divadelních knihoven a muzeí

Příspěvek z konference v Petrohradu

PhDr. Helena Hantakova

Arts Institute – Theatre Institute


The System and Organization of Czech Theatre Heritage

Part 1 

The Czech Centre of SIBMAS (International Association of Libraries and Museums of the Performing Arts) The Czech Centre of SIBMAS is a member of the SIBMAS international network of organisations that support the continuous interaction between theatre museums, libraries and archives. The activities of the Czech Centre are a continuation of the work of the Czechoslovakian Centre of SIBMAS that was established at the Moravian Museum in Brno in 1991. The constitutive meeting of the Czech national centre of SIBMAS took place in 1993 at the Theatre Institute in Prague. In compliance with the aims of the SIBMAS international organization, the Czech Centre brings together library organizations from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia including those libraries that have theatre collections, theatre archives, museums containing theatre artefacts, and libraries from specialised educational institutes. The fundamental aim of the international organization is to exchange practical and theoretical information from all aspects of the work of its individual members and to cooperate on projects of national and international natures. Like the SIBMAS International organization, the Czech Centre SIBMAS has its own website ( These pages include a registry of members of the national organisation, where one can find the characteristics of the institution, a brief description of its collections, its hours of operation as well as its contacts. The website also contains minutes from the council meetings, travel reports, a subsection containing some of the organizations most recent issues, as well as a complete overview of the centre’s activities.

Part 2 

Description of the Collections of Various Theatre Organizations in the Czech Republic

Last but not least, the national centre acts as a professional departmental platform in the field of theatre studies in the broadest sense of the word. The centre currently has 16 members that are divided into three different kinds of institutions: theatre archives, libraries and museums.

The theatre archives are understood as information-documentation centres where documents related to the artistic activities of a particular stage have been collected. These organizations include:

The Archives of the National Theatre in Brno –

The National Theatre in Brno has two archives: the first is the archive of artistic documentation and the second is the music archives. The archives of the National Theatre in Brno ensures the collection, documentation and the cultural activities related to the history and current status of the Czech theatre in Brno.

The Archives of the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theatre in Plzeň –

The fundamental aim of the archives is to administer all relevant materials for all separate artistic divisions of the theatre, in reference to the opera, operetta, drama and ballet companies. In addition, the archives serve to collect and catalogue all new materials, to maintain the existing materials in good condition and to ensure the quality preservation of the printed music.

The Archives of the National Theatre in Prague –

The National Theatre collections and library includes books, photographs, theatre schedules and posters, reviews, collections for various estates, written correspondence of employees of the National Theatre as well as the organisation’s correspondence itself. The theatre’s current repertory season is accessible on the internet, and previous seasons are gradually being archived. Visitors of the website will benefit from its exhaustive search possibilities: according to the theatre season, genre, the name of a particular artist or the name of a production. The user can also find a complete list of names of the management and the creative teams from all three ensembles of the National Theatre from each season. The database of names contains every name that has appeared on posters of the National Theatre over the past 120 years. The user can locate information alphabetically or according to the genre, author of the production or the building in which the premiere took place. Today, the database of the National Theatre Registry contains over ten and a half thousand names and the premieres of nearly 4,900 works.

The Library and Archives of the Centre of Experimental Theatre in Brno –

The library was created in 1996 and 1997 when the Centre of Experimental Theatre acquired the archives of the Goose on a String Theatre, but the acquisitions did not become public until December 1997. The library contains 2 400 volumes of theatre literature, literature from other related disciplines, theatre scripts, works of fiction, programmes and scripts from the Goose on a String Theatre in digital format.

The specialised libraries of the Czech Centre of SIBMAS are represented by the art schools and other specialised institutions. These include:

The Library of the National Information and Consultation Centre for Culture in Prague (NIPOS) –

Information accessible to the public in the NIPOS Library includes: books – collections from the various fields of culture, art and social sciences; periodicals – a selection of regional periodicals, newsletters from the regions and cities, magazines and journals; informative materials about the cities and regions in the Czech Republic; statistical data pertaining to theatres, musical groups, galleries, observatories, libraries, museums and cultural heritage sites, as well as data pertaining to “one-off” periodicals, press and publishers.

The Library of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno –

The JAMU library provides services to students, teachers and the faculty of JAMU. Its collections contain 80 000 catalogued including books (textbooks, encyclopaedia, theatre studies, musical studies, professional and language dictionaries, and fiction from world authors), sheet music (musical scores, short scores, libretto, compositions for individual musical instruments of Czech and world composers), magazines (Czech and foreign professional publications), graduate papers and dissertations, phonographs, CD´s and videocassettes.

The Library of the Department of Theatre Studies of the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of the Charles University in Prague –

The library is one of the smaller scholastic libraries and primarily provides services to students of the Department of Theatre Studies, as well as other students of the Philosophical Faculty of the Charles University. Other readers may also use the services of the library to a limited extent (in-house access to books). In 2001, the library was separated into two sections: theatre and film.

The Library of the Duncan Centre Conservatory in Prague –

The library and information centre of the Duncan Centre Conservatory was founded in 1992 when the state school was established. The information and resource centre strives to acquire, catalogue, preserve and make accessible that information that pertains to the various disciplines taught at the Duncan Centre – primarily in the field of contemporary dance.

The Library of the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU) in Prague –

The library provides services to the students and pedagogues of the school. It currently has more than 30 000 volumes of theatre literature in its collection (including the dissertations and graduate works of the DAMU students and inaugural dissertations of the DAMU instructors), as well as theatre periodicals and approximately 900 titles of other resource materials (videos, CDs, cassettes, CD ROMs, and DVDs).

The Library of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU) in Prague –

The collections of HAMU were created in accordance with the mission of the music faculty to offer resources and services in the field of classical music and dance. The collections include sheet music (all types of printed music including “urtext editions” and graduate manuscript works); books (universal encyclopaedias, musical encyclopaedias and encyclopaedias of other artistic disciplines, monographs, works from music and dance theory, psychology resource materials, pedagogical materials, information about interpretation and organology, bibliographic works, thematic catalogues of works, manuscripts, etc), dissertations; catalogued periodicals; an audiotheque (CDs, LPs, DVDs) and a small video library.

Municipal Library of Prague – Theatre and Film Department –

The Theatre Department of the Municipal Library in Prague is a special exception in this category of libraries; its founding body is neither a school nor a professional theatre institution, but rather the City of Prague. Its aim is to provide the broadest spectre of services to the general public and ensures the purchase, cataloguing, and lending services of the books, magazines and clippings.

Part 3 

The Description of Museum Collections in the Czech Republic

Cultural monuments related to theatre life in the Czech Republic are represented in either a small or large scale in all city museums, in castle collections, as well as in the collections and archives of memory houses that have been commemorated to theatre by the famous local artists. Here I shall briefly introduce the largest theatre collections located in museums that are also members of the Czech Centre SIBMAS.

Museum of Puppet Culture in Chrudim (The Museum of Puppets) –

The Museum of Puppets was opened in 1972 in a renaissance building known as the Mydlář House, built by Chrudim burger – Matěj Mydlář in 1573-1577. The museum’s collections were based on a private collection of Prof. PhDr. Jan Malík (1904-1980), who was an inexhaustible organiser of puppetry events, a theoretician, a historian, a pedagogue, a collector and a puppeteer himself. To increase the collection of the museum, he asked every national centre of UNIMA (“Union Internationale de la Marionnette“) to donate a sample of puppets from their own countries. Over the first 30 years, the museum collections phenomenally grew in size and new contributions are still made to the museum. Today the museum owns approximately 8.300 puppets and 43.600 other exponents, including stage designs, scale models, decorations, graphic art inspired by puppetry, posters and programmes, photographs, manuscripts, publications and much more.

National Museum in Prague – Theatre Department –

The Theatre Department of the National Museum was established in 1924 as a part of the National Museum library, eventually becoming an independent department in 1930. Currently, the Department contains 750.000 historical objects, including documents that pertain to the history of professional and amateur theatre in Bohemia and Moravia. The collection does not exclude the documentation of the history of theatres that perform in other languages, either in the Czech Republic or abroad.

The collections are very diverse and thoroughly document the history of theatre. One of the most valuable is the collection of approximately 30.000 pieces of scenography – stage and costume designs, models, portraits and busts. Included in the collection are documents about Baroque theatre and works represented by some of the most significant Czech stage designers, including M. Aleš, F. Kolár, K. Štapfer, V. Hofman, F. Kysela, J. Čapek, F. Zelenka, B. Feuerstein, and F. Tröster as well as representatives of modern Czech theatre design.

The puppet collection is one of the department´s most attractive. The collection includes 3.000 puppets, complete puppet theatres (with set decoration, curtains and props), puppet scenography, posters and programmes, and an interesting collection of “patrons” – paper announcements that folk puppeteers used to “print” their own posters. The Kočka family’s puppet collection, dating back to the end of the 18th century, is one of the museum’s oldest artefacts, and one can also find the invaluable puppet collection of Arnošt Kopecký, grandson of the famous Matěj Kopecký.

The museum’s collection of manuscripts pays special attention to the historical archives of each individual theatre. Here we can find theatre scripts containing the signatures of notable Czech theatre makers like J.K. Tyl, J.N. Štěpánek, V.K. Klicpera, J.J. Kolár, the Mrštík brothers, and K. Čapek, just to name a few. The collection of director’s notes is also a very valuable part of this collection. The picture is supplemented by an extensive grouping of correspondence, in which we can find several hundred articles. In this collection, we can find also correspondence signed by some of the world’s most famous cultural personalities such as R. Rolland and K.S. Stanislavski.

With close to 350.000 samples of theatre photographs and negatives, the collection of photographs is the largest in the department, and contains photographs of our country’s most famous actors, singers and dancers from the beginning of last century, as well as some of the leading performers from around the world who were hosted in the city of Prague.

Theatre posters, announcements and programmes also create an extensive part of the collection. The oldest document in the collection, and at the same time the oldest exhibit, is the synopses of an allegorical play that dates back to 1642.

The collection of sound recordings and what are sometimes known as “trophies or panoply” – personal memoirs commemorated to outstanding personalities of Czech theatre – is not as extensive as the previously mentioned collections, but have nonetheless an important archival value.

Silesian Regional Museum in Opava – Theatre Department –

The independent theatre department was founded in 1976. Beginning with absolutely nothing in its collections, the department has succeeded in obtaining and restoring numerous theatre artefacts from the 19th century to today. The theatre department maps the professional and amateur theatre and puppet activities in the region of Silesia, and northern and southern Moravia. Currently, the archive has approximately 32.000 artefacts that have been catalogued into 11 different collections. These include theatre texts, director’s notes, programmes, posters and period prints accompanying the productions, set designs, correspondence and written materials from the estates of leading actors and directors, reviews, photographs, puppets and puppet theatres, costumes and a small collection of audio memoirs. Many of these are excellent examples of the character of the region and are incorporated into the context of the research of Czech theatre culture. The collection is a valuable resource and contains adequate materials of our national character.

The Moravian Museum – Department of Theatre History –

The Department of Theatre History of the Moravian Museum in Brno has been in existence since 1955. The department was founded six years after the museum acquired the collections from the Družstvo českého Národního divadla (a contingent of the Czech National Theatre), that at that time had extracted more than 20 thousand theatre-related artefacts and nearly 3.000 theatre publications. This complex has become the foundation of the systematically created collections from Moravia in the field of theatre.

In the 1970´s, the activities of the department grew to include the research and documentation of Czech puppetry with special emphasis on the travelling marionette theatres. Currently, the collection contains such valuable artefacts as set designs, iconography, manuscripts, photographs, audio recordings, props and other accompanying materials. The department administers almost 80.000 catalogued artefacts. The archives are accessible to researchers in this field, but not to the general public.

The aim of the department is the study, documentation, professional evaluation of the documents, the publication of the findings and the cultural activities in the field of theatre in Moravia, i.e. the monitoring and documentation of today’s professional and amateur theatre of all types and genres. In addition, the research, study and documentation of the historic phenomenon of theatre including foreign language theatre activities taking place in the Czech Republic that have influenced the development of Czech theatre.

Part 4 

Czech Theatre Documentation and Collections after the 2nd World War

Arts Institute – Theatre Institute –

The Theatre Institute was established in 1959 and is a non-profit organisation of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and has become a modern information centre and research institute, whose main mission is to provide the Czech and foreign public with a complex information service in the area of theatre, ballet, dance, puppet theatre and other forms of the performing arts.

The organization is the largest publisher of theatre literature in the Czech Republic with approximately 15 titles published annually (including theatre plays). It regularly publishes the Theatre in the Czech Republic yearbook, which summarizes relevant data of the theatre season. Other regular periodicals include the Theatre Revue and the Czech Theatre.

The Institute has at its disposal one of the largest theatre libraries in Europe, a video library, photo archives, a rich documentation and bibliographical collection, and several on-line information databases.

The primary goal of the Library of the Theatre Institute is to collect, catalogue, preserve and make available all books and periodicals about Czech theatre, as well as provide a selection of theatre literature from abroad. Currently, the collection of books consists of more than 113,000 volumes specializing in theatre literature, theatre texts, literature of related specializations and periodicals. Documentation resources are accessible through a system of traditional catalogues and the on-line catalogue (OPAC) of the automated library system KP-WIN.

The Audio Library contains a large inventory of sound recordings of spoken texts, operas, operettas, melodramas, musicals, scenic music and ballets.

The Video Library collection contains a predominant study of recordings of Czech theatre productions, a special selection of visiting artists, all in VHS and DVD format. Titles can be found using the on-line computer database.

The Documentation Department collects and makes available information about the practical activities of professional theatres and theatre companies in the Czech Republic. It continues to add to its archive additional programmes, printed materials, press cuttings and photographs. A unique computer programme was developed for broader and complex cataloguing of all data contained in the collections of the Documentation Department. It is possible to access this information through four basic databases: Theatre Artists, Plays and Productions, Festivals and Visiting Artists, and Video Excerpts. All these database applications contain current information, and will gradually be supplemented by the inclusion of past events.

The Bibliography Department catalogues articles about Czech and foreign theatres that have been published in newspapers and magazines, as well as professional literature issued in the Czech Republic. All articles about Czech studies and selected foreign theatres are recorded from chosen foreign periodicals. The collection of document entries located in the Bibliography Department can be found in card catalogues as well as in the computer database. In this way, the Bibliography Department has continually catalogued more than 100 periodical titles of local origin and more than 40 foreign periodicals. Currently more than 140.000 articles have been catalogued. A concurrent bibliography can be found in the computer database that allows various manners of searches and retrievals.

The Arts Institute – Theatre Institute promotes Czech theatre culture abroad and consequently engages in international cultural exchanges through the organisation of exhibitions, symposiums, seminars and theatre presentations.

Resource materials:

BENEŠOVÁ, Z. The Repertoire Register of the National Theatre in Prague Now in Digital Form. In Performing Arts Collections on the Offensive : 26th SIBMAS Congress, Vienna 2006. Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang, 2007, s.107-111.

HANTÁKOVÁ, H. České středisko SIBMAS, sdružení divadelních knihoven, muzeí a archivů (Czech Centre SIBMAS, association of theatre libraries, museums and archives). In Knihovny současnosti 2006 (Libraries of Today 2006). Brno : SDRUK, 2006, s. 403-407.

NĚMEČKOVÁ, V. Analýza srovnání on-line katalogů s divadelní tématikou (A Comparative Analysis of the on-line theatre catalogues). Praha : VOŠIS, 2004. 1 CD-ROM.

NOSÁLKOVÁ, B. Instituce a fondy teatrololgické literatury v České republice (Institutions and Collections of Theatre Literature in the Czech Republic). Praha : VOŠIS, 2003. 101 s., příl.

HERMAN, J. O paměti divadel podruhé (A Second Look at the Memories of Theatres). Divadelní noviny, 1994, roč. 3, č. 10, s. 11.

HANTÁKOVÁ, H. Národní středisko SIBMAS (National Centre of SIBMAS). Zprávy Divadelního ústavu, listopad/prosinec 1993, s. 49.

Muzeum loutkářských kultur [on-line]. Chrudim: Muzeum loutkářských kultur, 2003 [cit. 2008-03-17]. Dostupné na World Wide Web:

Národní muzeum [on-line]. Praha : Národní muzeum, c2005-2008 [cit. 2008-03-17]. Dostupné na World Wide Web:

Divadelní ústav [on-line]. Praha : Divadelní ústav, c2001 [cit. 2008-03-17]. Dostupné na World Wide Web: