Author: Jens Bertels (AMVB)
- Problem Definition
- Participation in the archival audit of PACKED and Het Firmament
- Drawing up an evaluation report and tasklist
- Identifying and implementing short term priority actions
- Cleaning the archives room and drawing up a basic finding aid
- Further mapping the in situ archival documents
- Transferring archival documents to the AMVB
The Royal Flemish Theatre (Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg) participated in an archival audit for performance arts organisations, organised by PACKED and Het Firmanent. The resulting evaluation report contained a task list which could help optimise their records management at short notice. To carry out some of these tasks, the KVS hired a working student. In a short period of time, the KVS took care of their archives room, mapped out the archives that were stored there, prepared a new transfer of archival materials to the AMVB and, when necessary, destroyed selected parts of the archive.
- Archival audit: end of 2017 – May 2018
- Drawing up an evaluation report and task list: end of May 2018
- Hiring a working student: June and July 2018
- Activities of the working student: August 2018
Due to a continuing neglect throughout the years, the archives room of the KVS had become chaotic and disorganised, which made it difficult to keep an overview of the contents of the KVS-archives and hindered locating the individual documents. A chaotic archives room often prevents taking concrete steps to improve archive management. However, because of the available infrastructure, the archives room of the KVS offered many opportunities to improve the situation. While the clean-up of the room was quite simple in and on its own, the required focus and time investment was not evident for staff members who already had to cope with filled agendas. After consultation with PACKED and Het Firmament, it was decided that the KVS would hire a working student to clean the archives room for them.
Participation in the archival audit of PACKED and Het Firmament
In the fall of 2017, PACKED and Het Firmament started a new series of archival audits for performance arts organisations. De participants for this project were the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS), Het Nieuwstedelijk and Theater Utrecht. This case study focuses on the auditing of the KVS, in which the AMVB was involved besides PACKED and Het Firmament.
The audits were carried out via a combination of visits on site, (self)evaluations based on TRACKS-guidelines, a workshop on archival care and specific guidance to optimise the archive management of the participating organisations.
Drawing up an evaluation report and tasklist
By combining the aforementioned work forms, both the participating and the accompanying organisations could develop a good understanding of the historical developments, the current situation, the recurring problems and possible solutions regarding archive management.
Based on this analysis, an evaluation report was drawn up containing a description of the current situation, the short and long-term objectives that were be achieved and a list of priority actions that had to be undertaken. These objectives and priority actions were translated into an orderly task list with which the participating organisations could get to work.
The task list tried to give an exhaustive overview of the different working points, including an assessment of the relative importance of each point. After that, it was up to the participating organisations to translate these working points and priorities into concrete actions, both in the short and the long term.
Identifying and implementing short term priority actions
After the conclusion of the audit, the KVS decided to work on the following points: mapping the physical archives in situ, organising and cleaning the archives room (which also houses their stock of promotional materials) and raising staff awareness about digital archives management.
For the task of clearing out the archives room and the further mapping of the physical archives, the KVS was advised by Het Firmament, PACKED and the AMVB to hire a working student. Lotte Vrancken took care of the KVS-archives for a whole month and made considerable progress.
Cleaning the archives room and drawing up a basic finding aid
First, the archives room was carefully tidied up and provided with a basic finding aid. The KVS-archives room serves both to house the stock of promotial materials and to store part of the operational archive. Due to a lack of good work arrangements, it wasn’t clear which materials and documents had ended up in this room. The resulting mess had in the past contributed to the postponement of concrete actions to tidy up the room.
Lottes clean-up action resulted in a good overview of the materials and documents that were present in the room (by means of a basic finding aid) and a thorough selection of redundant materials. The resulting space saving and the general overview of the contents of the room will contribute to a better management of the KVS-archives in the future.
Further mapping the in situ archival documents
Not all the archival documents had ended up in the archives room. A significant number of documents tended stay on the desks of KVS-staff and in cabinets in their offices. Moreover, at the top of the building, there was another room in which archives were stored. The mapping of these additional archival documents was started by Lotte but couldn't be finished by the end of her contract. However, there is already an increased knowledge about the materials in the building. By way of cooperation, discussions and the evaluation report, the KVS now has a better understanding of the contents of the archives already kept by the AMVB. Over the years, transfers of archival materials had been made by different staff members and under different managements. Previously, the knowledge about these transfers and the content of the transferred archives was in danger of disappearing from the organisation. Thanks to this project, this is no longer the case.
Transferring archival documents to the AMVB
Cleaning out the archives room and obtaining an overview of its contents was a prerequisite for a new transfer of archival materials to the AMVB. Starting in 2004, the KVS has regularly transferred parts of its archives. Thanks to this project, the collection kept by the AMVB has received a substantial number of posters and documents concerning the Bottelarij-period. The transferred archives can now be made accessible and be used in all kinds of (research) projects.
Organised archives room
The creating of a basic finding aid and a thorough cleaning resulted in an organised archives room. Now the staff members of the KVS know which document are stored in the archives room and it is both easier to find the necessary documents and to take follow-up actions based on the task list.
Space-saving in the archives room
The transfer of archival documents to the AMVB, the relocation of materials and objects that were out of place in the archives room and the destruction of superfluous documents all resulted in a considerable gain in available storage space in the archives room. Approximately a full container worth of materials that the KVS no longer needed were disposed of. This not only significantly reduced the risk of uncontrolled and undesirable loss of important documents due to a lack of storage space, but also allows for a better and safer storage of the remaining archival documents.
Mapping the present archives
During the project, it was attempted to fully map all the archives that can be found in different locations in the KVS-building. The mapping has been fully achieved for the main archives room but has only been partially completed for the other locations in the building. Nevertheless, it is a major step forward in introducing a responsible archival management to the organisation.
Archival transfer to the AMVB
The transfer of promotional materials and archival documents concerning the Bottelarij-period to the AMVB ensured that important stage production heritage can be safely preserved and made available for documentation, research and reuse, all without any additional efforts on part of the KVS.