Garrick Club


Moira Goff - Librarian

Moira Goff, Librarian for the Garrick Club talks about the Club's unique collection including scrapbooks, playbills and prints. . The Garrick Club was founded in 1831 and the Library was part of its founding tenets. The library covers theatrical life from the 18th Century onwards and of course, includes a wealth of material about David Garrick, the Club's namesake. Moira also discusses the displays and exhibitions the library organizes, the collection's relationships with other institutions and the universal challenges archivists face of finding space for collections and time for cataloging.

Please Note: This is an automated, machine-generated transcription. We have presented this 'as is' and have not undertaken any editing.

hello and welcome to the max communications 2020 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is faith williams and i'm joined today by Moira Goff librarian for the Garrick Club hi Moira would you like to introduce yourself and tell us about how you came to be working at the Garrick hi i came to be working at the Garrick by accident i think i worked at the british library in london for a long time and when i left a cataloging job came up at the Garrick and i thought well it'd be interesting because it's a theater collection i've always been interested in sieta so i applied and found myself being interviewed to be the librarian at the Garrick because the previous librarian wanted to move on and i've been there ever since oh fantastic so how did you spend an average day oh well start with the emails and the inquiries i'm trying to think what i spend most of my time on it's quite a big collection and it needs quite a lot of work so i obviously it's an interesting collection of people are interested in it so there's a fair amount of inquiry work both from the members of the club because it's a private members club and from outside inquirers which means i'm looking at collections quite a lot but i'm also really trying to get to grips with the collection to make sure that everything is properly stored is properly catalogued so i'm working with material a lot during the day i'm sorting things out or i'm checking books or i'm doing a bit of research we do displays at the club so sometimes i'm doing that it's very very very but it's all based absolutely around the collections because we have all the collections most of the collection most of the library collections are actually on site so of course you know there to hand so i can check things very easily how many items are in the collection then roughly well that's quite a difficult question to answer i think the official number is something like 13 to 14 000 but actually the collections are so varied and there's so many individual items in them and there's a lot of work to be done i mean i can go into our archive area which is where we keep the special stuff and pull something off the shelf and think i haven't seen that before it doesn't have a catalogue record and it might be something that's got a lot of individual items in it so 13 to 14 000 maybe but i'm not i'm not going to be held to account for that it might okay and you've mentioned it it's largely theater-based obviously Garrick is named after david Garrick the the famous shakespearean actor have you got other types of things in your collection though it is a theatrical collection i mean that's that's the point when the club was established it was actually set up to bring together actors people on the stage were very closely involved in the stage with the people in in the audience the patrons of the theater and when the club was first established it was established to have a library that's that's one of the first of its rules and i mean that's really interesting and the people who set it up with yet a people they gave material to the club to start the library and it's gone on ever since then it is a theatrical collection it's very much focused on british theater and within british theater it's highly focused on theatre in london and the collections go back well they certainly go back to the 18th century we've got some earlier material but they really really take off around about the middle of the 18th century and we're still collecting material now 20th and even some 21st century stuff but it's very much theater history it's absolutely focused on that do you have links with other organizations then like theaters our links with other organizations and other theatric theatrical organizations with theaters and with theater societies tend to be informal so i mean there are a number of big siete collections in the uk we have informal links with them and we have informal links with a variety of other institutions that are concerned with theater in the uk and that's really the way it works so they know that we're a major theatrical collection we know about other major theatrical collections and you know the links flow from there people will come and ask us things or we have to go and ask people things but there are formal links in that way because it's a private members club is it mainly private members who access the collection well they're the first and the most important people but of course it's a very well known collection it's got a lot of material in that researchers of different sorts want to use so theater historians and people who are writing books about particular people in the theatrical past we do have an online catalogue so it's quite easy to find what we have online and we do get a steady stream i mean not at the moment obviously but we do get a steady stream of external researchers who come and use the collections and i do get a steady stream of external inquiries about the collections as well but my first audience and my most important audience is obviously the members of the club and we do have some who who do actually make quite a lot of use of the library oh wonderful are there any particular challenges do you think that come with managing this particular type of archive a private collection well the a lot of them are practical i mean i'm a librarian that's my background but i've had to sort of become an archivist because you've got a lot of archive material and a lot of that's very interesting of course it's all one collection it's all linked together so i mean my ch i've got one of my challenges is reinvent myself as an archivist as well as a librarian um another practical challenge is actually making sure that the material that we've got and we are adding to the collections all the time is properly stored and we've got enough space for it and that's something that's exercising me quite a lot i mean there's quite a lot of work to be done to make sure it's stored most accessibly most safely and most economically so that's a really big challenge and as i'm doing that of course i'm encountering conservation issues we do have a conservator comes and works with us regularly and that's really good but there is quite a lot of work to do because of the nature of some of the material in the collections yeah what are you hopes for the future you've mentioned adding to the collection if you expand i mean you're based in common garden is that right there's only so much space surely are you thinking of moving parts of the library out sure well i'd we'd rather not do that you know there's there's a sort of issue going forward there the library was redeveloped a few years ago and extra space was provided and that that was only in in 2014 that the new library opened and gave us a specialist archive space so i mean the first thing is to make sure that we we do our best with that i don't really want to move material out but it may come to that we have to see my main thing is to make sure that we've actually got tabs on everything that we've got because some of this stuff is really so interesting but we need more detail catalog records to make sure that we know about it and people who might want to use it know about it and that the members know about it and they know more so that they can you know see the materials that belongs to them really yeah yeah of course what what is your favorite item in the collection just your personal favorite obviously you've got many items that are no doubt of fantastic quality and age so narrow it down oh i can't i might always ask that i've been asking that question so many times it's really really difficult my favorite group of material i think are really the scrapbook collections we've got a lot of scrapbook collections the i the collection that i tend to draw on most often there are two collections i do one is called it's called the Garrick memorial and it's really really interesting because it's a very beautiful set of scrapbook for him scrapbook is not the right word for it the volumes are they focus on david Garrick but they also deal with Garrick's milieu his his context the people that he was working with and the material most of which is actually 18th century so his contemporary with Garrick was brought together for another great theatric theatrical actor sir henry irving it was actually made for him so he had somebody collect material about Garrick and Garrick's contemporaries and he actually it was put together and it was put together very beautifully it's a wealth of material it encompasses the sort of stuff that we have it's got play bills it's got letters it's got prints it's got it's also got 100 notes about different actors so it puts Garrick in context it gives you as many illustrations of Garrick in print form as you could possibly ever wish to get but it gives you all his contemporaries we do displays in the club so that peop you know members can see and the material that we have and i've drawn on this one quite a lot so i think of all i love the scrapbook collections i think the scrapbook collections are wonderful that's really the sort of core and focused one i think what kind of things do you display do you go on themes or or periods whatever we can think of so it might it might be an individual actor so for example herbert bierbaum tree is a great actor manager he was the man who actually got a majesty's theater in the haymarket built but he was absolute character and we've got material about him so we did a little display about him a little while ago we do displays about particular plays we've got a lot of material about arthur wing pinero and his famous play was trelloni of the wells so we can do a little display because we've got a pinero collection and that would be photographs of the first production programs of the production the whole series of things so we bring something together that just gives a picture of that but we can do we can do a really wide range of theatrical topics individual plays individual actors actor managers we have a lovely collection actually relating to a gentleman who nobody will ever have heard of called wilson barrett the younger and he ran a repertory company that toured in scotland and we have quite a lot of what was his archive including a lot of programs that show all the different places he played and what he played and that's really very interesting a scrapbook with press cuttings that you know sort of people re the local press in scotland reacting to the performances they put on so we did a little display about that it's many and various we can do 18th century 19th century 20th century and a really wide range of topics and that's what we try and do to actually showcase and also to show how the collection fits together because of course we've got an amazing collection of artworks not just the paintings on the walls but also prints and drawings and we can bring all that together to show how it fits do you get donations from your members yes all the time they're very very generous they are very generous and so you know they like the idea of actually adding to the collection and so we do we get regular presentations i don't want i wouldn't single them out i mean some some of them are actually quite spectacular in library and archive terms but all of them are really valuable and the interest is not only the items themselves but the way in which they link to the person who's giving them and the who may have had a particular interest and collected a group of items programs for example that they want to give us i mean i'm always a little bit reluctant to take more programs because we've got a lot of programmes but where you have a group of programs that fit together and they are linked with a particular individual's work in the sierra theater going and they become a very valuable record and then that presumably adds to this shared sense of culture that is within the club absolutely absolutely it does yes it's really interesting and you mentioned the database you have with some of the items is that what you're hoping to expand and so you can you can look up a certain actor or producer or whoever and and just come up with everything that is available for public consumption in the collection well one hope so we've actually got a very extensive catalogue and the catalog's been worked on for a long time we've got a sort of three-part catalog that fits together and can be searched as one so we've got a catalog that covers the artworks we've got a catalogue for the books and we've got a catalog we've now got a catalogue for the archives and what we stripe so it's very extensive already but particularly with scrapbook collections and some of the other material we hold we have to sort of drill down inside the volumes so in the Garrick memorial for example there are a lot of individual things each of which probably needs an individual catalogue record so that you can find it because all of those the thing is with theater it's disappeared all we have left are these painted printed written records and the only way that you can get back to how it was is to try and bring as many of those together as you can so the catalogs are very already very extensive it tells you a lot about the collections but we need to go further so that we do know what we have about a particular play or a particular actor or a particular production or a particular theater that's a really interesting point as you say theater is quite ephemeral it's in the moment so the only way to have any idea about what went on is to have as many sources as possible yes exactly so you need nothing well i'm not sure i mean what we don't really do i don't know what will happen in the future but we don't really we're not in the business of collecting videos of performances now we can't go that far i mean that's that's done very extensively elsewhere but of course there were no videos until relatively recently yeah so what you have and what we do have a lot of them and what one of the things i love is i love the photographs of past productions we've got a lot of material that sort of dates actually dates to the period before during and after the second world war and some of those black and white photographs are very very atmospheric but you need that you need the programs you need the play texts we've got a lot of playtex you need all those different things to give you a sense of what the performance is like you need the biographies of people you need to know something about the people who directed not just the main actors all of that that whole picture we've got some interesting stuff with designs that's very important even some interesting things about costume makers that's very interesting you get the whole life of the theater which sort of coalesces to produce productions that audiences sit in front of to watch you need all of that to give you a sense of how it was yeah so if you're looking for something specific then people are welcome to inquire with you is that correct that's absolutely that's absolutely i mean we have details on the club's website and if people need to get in touch to ask you know we'll do our best to help that's what we're there for and i went on to your online catalogue and i rather stupidly typed in shakespeare and came up with so many entries it wasn't very specific i think you probably need a better keyword than that but it's well worth a look it looks really interesting yeah i mean don't try Garrick either that's me but if you actually go in at the top level what you'll see is that the records come up in order so you'll actually start with the pictures which of course miss me a bit but i mean it's a great place to come in and books box books don't reveal their riches quite as easily as images do yeah i suppose so and thank you for joining us today moira it's been really interesting sort of seeing behind the curtain as it were i know your collection is so rich but to actually get a chance to hear about it has been a wonderful opportunity thank you very much thank you cheers