On Thursday, February 28th, the OMA’s Miracle Theatre Project participated in a meeting of local Portland, Oregon arts groups featuring the American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP). Helice Koffler, Rachel Kinsman Steck, and Jeff Katz of the Northwest Region of ATAP gave presentations about the importance of preserving theatre history. Every theatre group has some type of archive, either organized or accumulated. It is of historical importance for these groups to get a handle on their volumes of records, ephemera, and production materials.
To illustrate just how theatre archives can be managed, I put together a display of Miracle Theatre materials. I arranged some of the theatre’s archival holdings along with the proper archival storage and organizational materials. Different forms of media, such as video, CD/DVD, photographs, and floppy discs were used to highlight the need to preserve productions for the future. Good records management practices were also stressed. A records retention schedule for items like financial records can thin out the bulk of many stockpiles of theatre papers. A sign with “Do we really need to keep thirteen year old phone bills?” helped to drive home this concept. The representatives of the Portland theatre community learned that setting up an archival program has many benefits.
ATAP’s Helice Koffler presentation included information about the national program and its history, as well as efforts underway in the Pacific Northwest. Jeff Katz introduced the ideas that not only are physical archives important to establish, but gathering oral histories of important theatre founders is equally imperative. Rachel Steck showed how theatres can have an online archive, possibly including videos, interviews or photographs. OMA Archivist Natalia Fernández spoke of the relationship we are developing with José Gonzalez and the Miracle Theatre Group. She emphasized that organizations such as the OMA can provide expertise, collection storage, and arrangement assistance.
I felt that the ATAP meeting was very successful. The OMA Miracle Theatre Project was well represented and proved to be a model that other theatrical groups can emulate. The theatre groups in attendance learned the importance of comprehensive archive programs to preserve the history of the arts in Portland, Oregon.
~ Mike Dicianna, Miracle Theatre Group Archives Project Intern