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Archiving

There are a lot of practical reasons why keeping a record of your body of work is not just useful, but essential. Archival photos and videos can be useful support material for grants. They also can make or break your chances at staging your production at a curated festival, touring, or doing a remount. They can help grow your website and social media presence as you build a body of work.

But archiving is so much more than filming your production. You are legally required to keep certain documents for a determined length of time. Other things you might not need to keep, but want to. Then there’s the physical stuff, big and small, that comes along with doing a show.


Your Archive is Our History
Your history is our cumulative theatre history. Because live performance is ephemeral, we have a responsibility to record and share our stories and process in order to learn and grow as a community. There is a collective benefit to the sharing of resources, whether it be through public archives (such as libraries), published materials or collections, online platforms (like your company website and artistproducerresource.com), or educational facilities, nonprofits and institutions (such as Generator, university programs, workshops and forums). The American Theatre Archive Project has an excellent manual outlining the benefits and considerations around public access. As you look through the list below, consider what information you want to make accessible to the public and how.

The need-to, should probably, could maybe, and the definitely nots of archiving:

We will mostly talk about what to keep here, but if you want to learn more about how to store what specifically, check out Storage.

Need To

Successful Grant Applications

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Future Reference, Record Retention.
How LongSeven Years
What FormHard copies of the received documents.
Why Share?Artists can share successful grant applications with younger artists as a learning resource (one to one sharing, peer mentorship)

Signed Contracts

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Future Reference, Record Retention
How LongSeven Years
What FormPaper or electronic
Why Share?Artists can share and compare contracts as a resource for learning and transparency (like our budget template on artistproducerresource.com, or during peer mentorship, workshops and forums)

Invoices and Receipts

Why: Tax/Audit PurposesRecord Retention
How LongSeven Years
What FormPaper or electronic

Production Budgets, Box Office Reports, Annual Reports

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Record Retention.
How LongSeven Years
What FormPaper or electronic.
Why Share?Sharing budgets, B.O. Reports and annual reports helps us recognize trends and compare different models (see Why Not Theatre’s article on PWYCA in Intermission Magazine)

Licenses and Permits

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Record Retention
How LongSeven Years
What FormPaper or electronic

Certificate of incorporation, other corporate documents

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Record Retention
How LongPermanently (Forever)
What FormPaper or electronic

Fundraising Records

WhyTax/Audit Purposes, Record Retention
How LongSeven Years
What FormPaper or electronic

Human Resources Documents*

(employment applications, personnel files, accident reports, payroll records, employee benefits records, etc.)

WhyLegal Purposes
How LongAt least 3 years
What FormPaper or electronic

* There are more specifics that go into record retention for registered non profits. This Article on Record Keeping Obligations for Non-Profit Organizations and Registered Charities provides a great overview.

Archival Video/Production Stills

WhyGrant applications, Web content*, Applying for Festivals/Remounts or to Presenters, Promo for Touring
* (with permission from the performers/union)
How LongFor as long as the material can be useful to you and/or the show has the possibility of touring/being produced again (at least 5 years is a good bet)
What FormElectronic (cloud, external hard drive)

Script (Production Draft)

WhyYou should definitely keep a copy of the production draft (especially for original work). Even if you aren’t planning on doing the show again, you are a part of a community and our theatre history! Someone may want to do the production someday, or study it in school, or read it, or use a monologue from it. You don’t know!
How LongForever
What FormElectronic (cloud, external hard drive)

Awards and Accolades

WhyWeb Content, Visa Applications, Tours/Remounts, Biography
How LongForever
What FormA spreadsheet with the hyperlinks and a description should be fine. As you build a body of work, you can add new sheets for each production. Store somewhere you can easily update (like Google Drive) so that it doesn’t become archaic and make adding to it part of your show post mortem

Should Probably

Cash Flow, Production/Rehearsal Schedules

WhyUseful should you decide to do the show again, and/or to base future cash flows/schedules off of
How LongUntil touring/remounting the show is no longer a possibility for you, and/or until you make a better formatted cash flow or schedule spreadsheet
What FormElectronic (cloud, external hard drive)

Press/Publicity (reviews, interviews, previews)

WhyWeb content, promotional material for future productions/tours/remounts, applying for visas
How LongForever (the stuff that’s worth keeping)
What FormA spreadsheet with the hyperlinks and a description should be fine. As you build a body of work, you can add new sheets for each production. Store somewhere you can easily update (like Google Drive) so that it doesn’t become archaic and make adding to it part of your show post mortem

Marketing Materials (Program, Posters, Print Materials, Digital Content)

WhyVery useful templates for touring/remounting.
How LongUntil touring/remounting the show is no longer a possibility for you
What FormElectrionic (cloud, external hard drive)

Promotional Photos/Video

WhyUseful if touring/remounting the show (with the same cast) is a possibility for you, Web content, Support material for grant applications
How LongUntil touring/remounting the show is no longer a possibility for you and/or until the footage/quality/content stops working for you

Sound Design/Audio Files*

WhyUseful if touring/remounting the show (with the same cast) is a possibility for you*
How LongUntil touring/remounding the show is no longer a possibility for you
What FormElectronic (cloud, external hard drive)

* with the permission of your sound designer

Stage Management Book

The Stage Manager’s Book is a hard copy document of the production script which tracks all the cues/blocking/props throughout the show.

WhyThis hard copy should be kept if touring or remounting the show is a possibility for you.
How LongUntil remounting the show is not a possibility for you, and/or at least 5 years
What FormHard Copy

Could Maybe

Lighting Plots, Design Sketches/Models etc.*

WhyWeb Content*, Useful for transferring the show into a new space (lighting plot), Incorporating the original design into future productions (in lieu of keeping original set and costume pieces), Support material for grant applications
How LongUp to you.
What FormPhysical or Electronic - depending on how much space you have and what you want to keep.*

* with the permission of your set/lighting/costume designer
* Original models and sketches do take up physical space, so if you aren’t planning on keeping original sketches or designs, reach out to the designer to see if they would like to keep it for their own portfolio before tossing it out.

Set/Costume Pieces, Show Specific Technical Equipment

WhyIf touring or remounting the show is a possibility for you, keep it if it is irreplaceable or incredibly expensive to recreate. If you aren’t doing the show again, what use does this item have for you? This may be very personal, and should be weighed against the cost of storage
How LongUntil touring/remounting the show is no longer a possibility for you, and/or it’s up to you.
What FormPhysical Storage

Non-Show Specific Technical Equipment

WhyWeigh the cost of buying/renting the equipment again vs. having to storage/pay for/live with the equipment between productions. Are you steadily building a body of work and want to invest in having these items? When is the next time you are planning on using them?
How LongUntil it is no longer useful.
What FormPhysical Storage

Definitely Not

  • Ticket Stubs (unless it is your receipt)
  • Hard Copies of Handbills, Posters, Programs, Old Scripts, Documents you already have stored electronically, etc.
  • Set/costume pieces that are easily replaceable and relatively inexpensive
  • Other people’s stuff post-production

More Resources

CRA Keeping Records Article: Information from the CRA website on what are records and who has to keep them. Essential information for preparing and archiving your income tax.

MaRS Article “Keeping and protecting employee records: The Ontario Employment Standards Act
: The Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) outlines the employee information that organizations, including startups, must securely store as part of their employee record keeping. This article is designed to assist employers in understanding some of their obligations and rights under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) and its regulations.

Mondaq Overview Of Record Keeping Obligations For Non-Profit Organizations And Registered Charities in Canada: This article provides an overview of the record keeping obligations for the following: federal not-for-profit corporations under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act; British Columbia societies under the new British Columbia Societies Act; and non-profit organizations and registered charities under the Income Tax Act.

American Theatre Archive Project’s “PRESERVING THEATRICAL LEGACY: An Archiving Manual for Theatre Companies”: This manual provides basic information about establishing and maintaining your theatre’s archives. As your company works through the process of assessing, surveying, appraising, storing, preserving, arranging, describing, and making accessible its legacy documents, ATAP archivists and documentarians are available to answer questions and recommend solutions to issues as they arise. The entire manual is available as a PDF download. Sections to check out include A Sample Rentention Policy and Schedule and Making Archives Accessible/Public Use

Places that Archive the Performing Arts

Archives Canada: An alphabetical list of the archival holdings in Ontario compiled by Archives Canada. On Archives Canada you can search archival holdings across Canada, access Provincial and Territorial Archival Networks, view digitized photographs, maps and other documents about Canada's history, browse digital projects produced through the Archival Community Digitization Program and find contact information for repositories where these resources are held.

LW Conolly Theatre Archives: The L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives have become a major resource used by Guelph faculty and students as well as researchers within Canada and from around the world since the Library began acquiring theatre collections in 1969.

Dance Collection Danse: Dance Collection Danse is a national resource centre and repository for Canadian dance history. DCD’s purpose is to provide a public space for research, education, exhibition, performance – a virtual and physical home for learning about the art of dance, both past and present.

Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives: The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was established to aid in the recovery and preservation of our histories. Its mandate is to acquire, preserve, organize, and give public access to information and materials in any medium, by and about LGBTQ2+ people, primarily produced in or concerning Canada; and maintain a research library, international research files, and an international collection of LGBTQ2+ periodicals.


This page was last updated: August 19 2018