Theatre Archives' Outreach and Core Archival Functions

  • Kathryn Harvey
  • Michael Moosberger


This paper outlines the evolution of the Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections’ theatre archives in order to demonstrate how changing archival standards, technologies, and expectations have influenced our public service (provision of in-house access to materials) and outreach activities (the provision of services and research tools for specific audiences) and to suggest that the development of our award-winning digital resource From Artillery to Zuppa Circus: Recorded Memory of Theatre Life in Nova Scotia might serve as a model of how an archives can balance the immediate needs of the communities they serve – both donors and researchers – with a firm understanding of archives’ societal role, historical usage trends, and the dangers of focusing too narrowly on the short-term. Using Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections’ theatre archives as a case study, the paper shows how outreach activities can fruitfully inform all aspects of holdings management from acquisition to description to public service without distracting from foundational principles and mandates. Indeed, the shortterm focus on outreach activities reaps long-term benefits from the improved visibility within archival and research communities.


Ce texte trace l’évolution des archives théâtrales conservées par les Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections. Les auteurs veulent montrer comment les changements au niveau des normes archivistiques, des technologies et des attentes ont imprimé leur marque sur le service au public (les dispositions nécessaires pour la consultation des documents sur place) et les activités de relations externes (les dispositions nécessaires pour les services et les outils de recherche destinés à un public visé). De plus, ils suggèrent que le développement de leur projet de numérisation primé, From Artillery to Zuppa Circus: Recorded Memory of Theatre Life in Nova Scotia, pourrait servir de modèle pour explorer comment les archives peuvent considérer à la fois les besoins immédiats des communautés qu’elles desservent – autant les donateurs que les chercheurs – et la connaissance solide du rôle sociétal des archives, des tendances historiques de leur usage, et du danger de se concentrer trop étroitement sur les buts à court terme. En se servant des archives théâtrales conservées par les Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections comme étude de cas, ce texte montre comment les activités de relations externes peuvent effectivement contribuer à une meilleure connaissance de tous les aspects de la gestion des collections, que ce soit l’acquisition, la description, ou le service au public, sans toutefois s’égarer des principes fondamentaux et des mandats. En effet, la concentration sur les activités de relations externes à court terme engendre des avantages à long terme grâce à la plus grande visibilité dans les milieux des archives et de la recherche.

Author Biographies

Kathryn Harvey
Kathryn Harvey graduated in 1995 from the University of Alberta with a PhD in English, and from the MLIS program at Dalhousie University in 2005, receiving the Director’s Award for her thesis on the “Uses of Archival Metadata in Administration and Resource Discovery.” She has taught English literature, non-fiction writing, computer skills, and archives courses at the University of Alberta, Dalhousie University, and Mount Saint Vincent University, and has served as Manager of the Thomas Head Raddall Electronic Archive Project, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Learned Journals, and Production Manager of the Dalhousie Review. Since November 2003, she has been employed as Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections’ Archives Specialist, and is currently the Chair of the Council of Nova Scotia Archives’ Professional Development and Training Committee. Her article, “From Bags and Boxes to Searchable Digital Collections at the Dalhousie University Archives,” appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies.
Michael Moosberger
Michael Moosberger is Dalhousie University Archivist and Manager, Archives and Special Collections, Dalhousie University Libraries. His previous professional experience includes working as an archivist at the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections and at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba. Michael holds a Masters in History and Archival Administration from the University of Windsor. He is currently President of the Council of Nova Scotia Archives, a member of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia’s Board of Trustees, and Chair of the Dalhousie University Libraries’ Digital Initiatives Group. He recently served as Program Chair for the 2006 Association of Canadian Archivists Conference, Team Leader for the Nova Scotia Heritage Portal Project, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the a.v. (audio-visual) Preservation He is a former Chair of the Canadian Council of Archives’ Preservation Committee, former member of the CCA’s Board of Directors, a past-president of the Association of Canadian Archivists, a past-president of the Association of Manitoba Archivists, and former Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for CAIN (Canada’s Archival Information Network), now Archives Canada. Michael has also taught graduate courses in records management and archives in the School of Information Management, Faculty of Management at Dalhousie.
How to Cite
Harvey, Kathryn, and Michael Moosberger. 1. “Theatre Archives’ Outreach and Core Archival Functions”. Archivaria 63 (1), 35-54.
Special Section on Archives and Culture