Association of Performing Arts Collections' Archive

Scope and Content

Business papers of the Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC), which was founded in 1979 as Theatre Information Group London. From 1985 to 1989, the association was known as S.I.B.M.A.S./U.K. From 1989 to 2012, it was known as Theatre Information Group (TIG).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) is the membership organisation for professionals, specialists, and other individuals working with or interested in performing arts heritage in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Its members include the institutions responsible for most of the UK's performing arts heritage: public museums, libraries, and archives; archives of theatres and companies; college and university archives and libraries; and performing arts organisations. APAC is the UK's Subject Specialist Network for performing arts. It has close links with SIBMAS, the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives, and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts.


APAC was founded in 1979 as the Theatre Information Group London, an informal network of librarians who met to exchange information about theatre resources. Throughout the 1980s, a Chair and a Secretary were appointed for each meeting.

In 1985, the group became the UK National Centre of SIBMAS and was officially known as S.I.B.M.A.S./U.K., although its earlier name was still used informally. Members wanted to be affiliated with an international organisation, and their entire subscription fee went to SIBMAS.

In May 1989, the network changed its name to the Theatre Information Group (TIG) as the first step in an evolving discussion about its function, profile, and composition. By the end of the year, the decision was taken to re-structure the informal group into a formal organisation.

In May 1990, a committee of officers was elected at the first Annual General Meeting. The minutes of this AGM introduced TIG's first headed paper, with a logo in a playbill-style typeface. The Theatre Museum became the group's postal address. The membership fees were raised slightly above the SIBMAS subscription rates in order to provide a small surplus for TIG.

The first constitution was ratified in 1993. It stated that 'TIG operates as the UK national centre' of SIBMAS, but that 'SIBMAS has no control over TIG, which is an autonomous body'. For three decades, the UK was the largest and best organised national branch of SIBMAS.

In 2005, TIG became the UK's Subject Specialist Network (SSN) for performing arts, making it eligible for SSN funding. Between 2005 and 2013, TIG successfully applied for six SSN grants, which were routed through the Theatre Museum (later V&A Department of Theatre and Performance) because TIG did not have legal status.

In 2012, the network changed its name to the Association of Performing Arts Collections to reflect the breadth of members' holdings and interests, and its growth beyond a 'group'. Also in 2012, APAC expanded its 'national' remit to include the Republic of Ireland and welcomed its first Irish member. The association's second constitution was ratified in 2013 and revised annually up to 2018.

In 2015, APAC held a referendum about creating a two-tier membership structure of 'national' (APAC only) and 'international' (APAC and SIBMAS). The current subscription fees were used as the national membership rates and the SIBMAS fees were added on top as the international rates. The new membership structure took effect in 2016. For the first time in its history, the association had an annual budget.

In 2018, APAC became a registered charity and an Affiliate Group of the Archives & Records Association of the UK and Ireland (ARA).


The volunteer Executive Committee administers APAC and carries out its activities. When APAC gained charity status, ExCom members officially became trustees of the association.

In the 1990s, the committee consisted of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer/Membership Secretary, and Publicity Officer. The Chair was responsible for organising member meetings and events, and the Publicity Officer for compiling the membership directory. Then as now, all the roles could be shared between two people.

By 2000, the Publicity Officer role had ceased to exist and responsibility for the directory passed to the Membership Secretary. In 2007, the Publicity Officer post was resurrected and the new post of Website Officer created. (The latter was initially without a job because TIG did not have a website until 2009.) The Publicity Officer post ceased again in 2014.

In 2014, the Officer Without Portfolio posts were created to bring more people onto the ExCom because running the association was a significant amount of work for the few named posts, even when shared. The committee has had three to five Officers Without Portfolio at a time. In 2019, the Treasurer/Membership Secretary post was split into two separate roles.

Because posts can be shared, formal elections have not been necessary. Before 2014, officers would be confirmed in their posts by a show of hands at the AGM. Since 2014, an online ballot has allowed the entire membership to participate in electing the ExCom.

To organise conferences and carry out projects, the ExCom has set up temporary working groups. It also has two standing working groups: performing arts authorities (formed 2014) and digital preservation (formed 2015).

In 2014, the ExCom began to hold regular meetings, but prior to this, it had only met when the need arose. Some years, it did not meet at all. ExCom members communicated by letter or email, or met up informally with relevant committee members. Before 2014, meetings were not necessarily minuted. It is possible, therefore, that the APAC Archive contains all or almost all of the ExCom minutes before 2014.


Member meetings are a core activity of the association, and minutes are circulated to all members.

The APAC Archive's first full set of meeting minutes is for 1988, when five member meetings were held. In both 1989 and 1990, 10 meetings took place. At the 1990 AGM, it was proposed to hold 12 meetings a year: eight for institutional members and four for all members. Given the archive's lack of minutes for 1991 and 1992, it is not known if this number was achieved. From 1993 to 2016, the association typically held five or six member meetings a year (with some exceptions). Since 2017, four meetings a year have been the norm.

In the 1980s, member meetings took place in London, usually hosted by the British Theatre Association or the Theatre Museum. Both institutions had standing agenda items at which they reported on their activities. In 1989, these were replaced by an agenda item later known as the 'newsround', which allowed all members to report on what they were doing. Initiatives around theatre resources were a frequent topic at meetings in this decade, such as the Library Association's working party on theatre research and the International Theatre Bibliography.

The re-structuring of 1990 included the aims to broaden the range of members who hosted meetings and to hold at least one meeting a year outside London. The first aim was swiftly accomplished and added a new element to meetings: a tour of the host institution. In 1990, Glyndebourne Opera and the Shakespeare Centre, Stratford, hosted the first regional meetings. The first in Scotland was in 1997. Meetings outside London did not achieve annual regularity until the 2010s, however.

Throughout 1990s, meetings were held at 6.30pm unless the hosting institution could only offer an afternoon session. By the early 2000s, meetings were more frequently held in the afternoon, a practice that continues.

From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, meetings were also held at non-TIG institutions of interest to members. On occasion in the 2000s, theatre and exhibition tours were arranged in central London (e.g., the Coliseum, National Portrait Gallery), followed by the meeting at a nearby member institution. At frequently used venues, such as the Theatre Museum, the tour was replaced by a presentation by an external speaker or a talk by an internal expert. Presentations in this period included Heritage Lottery Fund applications, the Data Protection Act, the Performing Arts Data Service, the Shakespeare web portal Touchstone, and the British Library's report into retro-conversion of paper catalogues.

In the early 2010s, the newsround was re-evaluated. Consequently, members were requested to email their news for inclusion in the minutes, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to spend more time at meetings on discussion of issues than on relaying member news. In 2015, the newsround was dropped as a standing agenda item for being too unwieldy.

In the 2010s, presentations by external speakers covered Art Council England's plans for Subject Specialist Networks, Collections Trust's online projects, Archive Service Accreditation, the AusStage performance database, and Digital Drama's online museum project. Some meetings had a special focus, such as authorities (2014), the Shakespeare 400 anniversary (2015), copyright (2015), and theatre programmes (2019).

For TIG's first two decades, the minutes were the primary means of communicating TIG's activities to members and for members to share their news. Mailouts of minutes often included leaflets and other materials of potential interest, submitted by ExCom members, TIG members, and external bodies.

In 2001, TIG set up an email discussion forum to allow timely communication with and among members. Minutes were circulated via the listserv until 2017, since when they have been emailed directly to members because the listserv is an open forum with a large proportion of non-members.

In 2014, APAC launched its bi-annual newsletter, Twitter feed, and Facebook page, all of which provide members with outlets for disseminating their news. A monthly blog, written by members, was introduced on the website in 2016.


The first TIG event was the 1990 conference 'Publishing for the Performing Arts'. This was followed by a study day on theatrical databases (1991), a conference on video archives (1992), and a study day on charging and copyright (1993).

It was then decided to offer a conference every other year, alternating with the biennial SIBMAS conference, which fell on even-numbered years. Three conferences were subsequently held: 'The Art of Controlling Demand: Charging and Other Management Strategies in Arts-Related Libraries and Information Services' (1995), 'Theatre and the Internet' (1997, held jointly with the Society for Theatre Research's Northern Group), and 'Profile-Raising for Effectiveness and Profit' (1999).

When the 2001 conference on archives in education had to be cancelled due to low registration and difficulty in confirming speakers, it was decided to hold an annual study day. These were not as time-consuming to organise, and practical workshops were deemed more valuable to members. The early 2000s saw study days on legal issues (2002), new copyright legislation (2003), and managing multimedia collections (2004). No events were held 2005-2008. The annual study day then resumed on the topics of oral history (2009), photography (2010), and costumes (2011).

In 2012, APAC organised and hosted the SIBMAS conference in London. Although the SIBMAS conference had taken place in the UK on previous occasions (London 1985, London 1998, Glasgow 2008), TIG had not been the organiser. TIG usually funded a reception, and members supported the hosting institution in the planning, as needed.

Subject Specialist Network grants from Arts Council England funded the study days on theatrical prints (2013) and film/video (2014) as well as the 2015 symposium. The grants meant that APAC members could attend free of charge, and since then, free registration at APAC events has been a member benefit.

Since 2015, APAC has held two events annually: a symposium and a study day. Symposia have addressed collection users and researchers (2015, 2017, 2019), volunteers (2016), and new approaches to performance collections (2018). Study days have covered costumes (2015), partnerships (2016), anniversaries (2017), digitisation and born-digital materials (2018), and collections' contexts within their institutions (2019).

Starting in the 1990s, the association offered members the opportunity to apply for a travel grant to the SIBMAS conference. In the 2010s, the travel grants were expanded to cover attendance at APAC events and meetings.


Membership subscriptions have always been divided into the categories of London-based institutions, institutions outside London, and individuals. Student membership was introduced in 2016.

In 1988, the first year for which the APAC Archive has a list, the membership stood at 42: 16 institutions in London; 19 institutions outside the capital, including two in Scotland and one in Wales; and 7 individuals, including one in Northern Ireland.

In 1991, the membership had reached 50. From the mid 1990s to the mid 2010s, members typically numbered in the 60s, sometimes dropping into the 50s (2011, 2013) and sometimes hitting the 70s (1998, 2006, 2014). Between 2015 and 2018, membership ranged from 87 to 95 members a year.

Typically, institutions in London outnumbered those beyond the capital, although in 1998, 1999, and 2003, there was near parity. Individual members tended to make up a sixth of the membership, but in the 2010s, they were often a quarter or more.

Between 1991 and 2010, a directory of members was published. Originally planned to be biennial, it became an annual publication, which was posted with the renewal notice. With the launch of the new website in 2012, the directory went online as the members pages.

Member surveys were taken in 1994, 1999, 2014, and 2019.


MLA GRANTS: Between 2005 and 2010, TIG received three Subject Specialist Network (SSN) grants from MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council). The Theatre Museum applied for the funding on TIG's behalf and carried out the work on the projects.

The first grant, in 2005, funded a feasibility study on the development of a National Performance Database, which would record productions and performances of plays, operas, dances, and other performed works in the UK. To aid this project, TIG convened a working party of members who were cataloguing into their own performance databases. A second grant in 2007 (of nearly £25,000) funded the building of a working prototype of the database as well as a user survey. (The prototype underwent further development in 2012-2015, as part of the Staging Beckett Project carried out by the Universities of Reading and Chester and the V&A Museum.)

In 2010, a grant of £10,000 allowed TIG to migrate records from the Backstage website into Culture Grid to create the UK Theatre Collections dataset (UKTC). Backstage (2002-2009) was an online catalogue of UK performing arts collections to which nearly 350 institutions contributed descriptions of their performing arts materials. The migrated data was cleaned and updated, and a training day was held so that APAC members could manage their own records in UKTC. The project was completed in 2011. (Culture Grid, an initiative of Collections Trust, closed in 2015, and UKTC was subsequently taken offline.)

WEBSITE: The 2005 grant also funded the creation of a TIG website. Two attempts were made, but both times the agency commissioned to develop the website folded before the work was completed. By 2008, MLA ceased to support this project. The council suggested that TIG use an SSNConnect website, which Collections Trust was developing to provide the SSNs with basic, free websites. TIG's SSNConnect website launched in September 2009, but software issues made it difficult to update and it lacked any visual design.

In November 2011, Arts Council England (ACE), which had taken on SSN funding with the demise of MLA, asked the SSNs to bid for small projects to use up the transferred budget for the year. TIG's Executive Committee researched several options for the complete redevelopment of the website and successfully applied for £5000 to carry out this work. The new website, designed by an agency, was launched in 2012.

ACE GRANTS: The website redevelopment funding was the first of three SSN grants received from ACE. For these, APAC's Executive Committee wrote the applications and carried out the work. A second grant of £2,500 allowed the 2013 study day to be free to members. The third grant of £9,100 provided free registration for members to the 2014 study day and the 2015 symposium. It also enabled maintenance and enhancement of the website. This include enabling 'responsive design' to make the website work properly on phones and tablets and embedding a feed of UK venue records from the AusStage performance database. (The feed was to fulfil the 'performing arts authorities' element of the application.)


In the absence of a complete run of minutes, it is not definitively known when APAC was founded. TIG's first constitution, ratified in 1993, states that the association was established in 1979. The archive holds no corroborating evidence for this date.

The Chairs' 2001 report, presented at the 2002 AGM, states that TIG was formed in 1980. TIG's 21st anniversary was celebrated at the same AGM. At this celebration the Chair is reported to have read extracts of the minutes of the first meeting but these minutes do not survive in the archive.

In email correspondence in 2012 with APAC's Website Officer, who was writing the history page for the new website, one founder member felt certain that the first minutes dated from 1981. She suggested that TIG also had earlier, more informal meetings that had not been minuted, making 1979 a possible start date.


The archive has six series:

  • THM/524/1 Official Documents
  • THM/524/2 Executive Committee
  • THM/524/3 Member Meetings and Annual General Meetings
  • THM/524/4 Events
  • THM/524/5 Membership
  • THM/524/6 Projects

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:
Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Acquisition Information

Given by the Association of Performing Arts Collections, 2018.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Custodial History

The APAC Archive was officially established at the V&A Theatre & Performance Archive in 2018.

Between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s, some of TIG's outgoing Executive Committee members deposited their files with an ExCom member who worked at the Theatre Museum, although the V&A did not formally recognise or constitute these files as one of its archive collections. As TIG Chair and V&A Archivist in the mid 2000s, Guy Baxter gradually gathered these files together into boxes.

In the minutes, the first mention of the archive is May 2003, when TIG members discussed the 'appropriate location for TIG's own archive of papers – the meeting felt it should be retained by the Theatre Museum, the current holder.' At the 2009 AGM, it was confirmed that the TIG Archive 'was housed with the V&A Theatre Collections at Blythe House'.

By 2012, when the history page was written for the new website, the TIG archive boxes could not be located but in 2013, seven boxes were located and briefly listed. They contained deposits from former Chairs Guy Baxter, Susan Brock, Alan Butland, Beverley Hart, Claire Hudson, and Rosy Runciman, and former Secretary John Collis. Their contents spanned 1988-2007, with gaps.

In 2018 the archive was formally accessioned into the V&A collections and in 2019, at the request of the APAC Executive Committee, the contents of these boxes were sorted into series reflecting APAC's administration and activities. An effort was made to fill in the gaps by contacting former committee members and the wider membership. Former Chair Fran Birch and former Website Officer Chris Jones deposited substantial materials, while a few members contributed a few additional papers. Minutes and other documents were printed from the APAC listserv and from the Executive Committee's shared drive in order to bring the archive's contents up to 2019. The archive was catalogued into Archives Hub.

The most significant missing items from the APAC Archive are the minutes from 1979-1987 and 1991-1992 and the 2006 officers' reports.

Removed from the archive were duplicates, 13 floppy disks and two CDs (their contents printed if not already among the archive's paper files – two floppies could not be read) and extraneous papers unrelated to APAC.

A note about the early minutes: It is known that minutes from the early 1980s existed in 2002 because the 'minutes of the first meeting' were read out at the 2002 AGM. In the mid 2000s Secretary John Collis added to the archive what was believed to be a complete set of minutes. In the 2013 and 2019 box listings of the archive, Box 1 contained a set of treasury-tagged minutes dating Jan 1993-Oct 1999 – donor unidentified – while Box 2 had a file of minutes dating Jan 2000-Feb 2005, with Collis shown as the donor. It is possible that together, these constitute the set Collis handed over (covering his years as a TIG member), although it is also possible that a third file, containing the pre-1993 minutes, has still to be located.


Annual accruals are expected.