The Wolanski Foundation Project

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21 August 2009














NIDA Scales Back Archive Project

NIDA has scaled back plans for development of the NIDA/SBW Archive.

The national theatre training school launched a campaign in 2005 to raise $3 million to develop the archive under the patronage of Cate Blanchett as a complementary service to its Rodney Seaborn Library. In developing plans, it formed partnerships with other organisations, including the Seaborn Broughton and Walford (SBW) Foundation and the Wolanski Foundation.

The SBW Foundation performing arts collection was relocated to a NIDA annexe at Alexandria,  refurbished to accommodate archival material, costume collections and props. 

The Wolanski Foundation provided funds to facilitate work on initial plans, with a particular focus on reviewing, organising and providing advice on the following material transferred from the Dennis Wolanski Library.

Archival and manuscript collections

About 200 collections of archival and manuscript material. These include a rare playbill of a 1795 performance of Wonder and Lodoiska at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1795, featuring Mr Kemble and Mr Barrymore. The Wolanski Foundation assisted in identifying collections, checking provenance details and adding entries to the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts catalogue. To facilitate access to this material, we will continue to update our pages on the Wolanski Foundation website. 

Press Clippings

A major collection of about 3 million press clippings and ephemera covering the period 1843-1996, organised in two parts. Part 1 is chronological run from 1843 to approximately 1973, with clippings from The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and other sources. Part  2 is an alphabetical run, mainly from the period 1970-1995, but with quite a number of items from earlier periods. Part 2 includes information on personalities, companies, venues and topics on the performing arts in general and the Sydney Opera House.  

Efforts in the past two years focussed on integrating unprocessed and partly processed clippings with the main collection and transferring clippings from 60 filing cabinets to more than 1000 archive boxes.


A program collection consisting of about 80,000 items, representing performances at the Sydney Opera House and the performing arts in Australia, mainly in the 20th century.

Books, serials and articles

About 80 boxes of books and serials, including major reference works on theatre, drama and other aspects of the performing arts. 

Performing arts indexes

A general card index of 80,000 entries with cross-references to all plays, operas and dance productions performed at the Sydney Opera House and other venues in Australia, 1973-1996, select entries for productions from previous eras and overseas productions, and  comprehensive entries for the British theatre review periodical Play Bulletin and the Australian periodical Theatre Australia.

A separate index of Australian plays with 5400 entries on performances, availability of published editions, and location of manuscript playscripts.

Future directions

NIDA has announced that it will be focussing future efforts on record-keeping and archival activities that reflect the work of NIDA as a training organisation.

The SBW Foundation will be moving its performing arts collection to a new premise in Rosebery. Web address:

The Wolanski Foundation is currently discussing support for information management programs with a number of organisations and has embarked on a research project on documenting the performing arts in Australian libraries, archives and museums.  


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