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  • II. The University of Guelph Collections
  • L. W. Conolly (bio)

[Some Principal Shaw Research Sources]

The University of Guelph theater archives consist of over one hundred collections, most of them of Canadian theaters and Canadian theater artists. The Guelph archives comprise easily the largest collection of Canadian theater materials anywhere. Early on, however, in the development of the archives, it was determined that there would also be a Shaw focus. This was a relatively easy decision since one of the largest theater companies in North America is the Shaw Festival, located less than a two-hour drive from Guelph. It also happened that the Shaw Festival, unlike the Stratford Festival (the largest theater company in Canada), had never taken steps to establish a formal archive, and so the invitation from Guelph to the Festival in 1983 to deposit its archives at the University was gratefully accepted.

The Shaw Festival began in the summer of 1962 with four performances of Don Juan in Hell and four performances of Candida. Under the leadership of artistic director Christopher Newton (appointed in 1979), the Festival has developed into what the Cambridge Guide to Theatre (1995) describes as “home to one of the finest acting ensembles in North America,” with a mandate (recently modified to include plays about, or set in the period of, Shaw’s lifetime) to stage the plays of Shaw and his contemporaries in annual seasons now running from early April to late November. The Shaw Festival materials occupy over 110 linear meters of shelf space in the Guelph archives, and cover every conceivable aspect of the production process. As such, they provide an invaluable and peerless resource for the study of Shaw on stage: promptbooks, set models, photographs, financial and other administrative records, souvenir and house programs, posters, reviews, technical drawings. There are archival video recordings of many productions, and through a study of bar receipts it is even possible to link the amount and type of intermission alcohol consumption with particular Shaw plays—a task that, as far as I know, no one has yet undertaken. Individual Festival artists such as designer Maurice Strike and actor Barry MacGregor have also deposited personal archives at Guelph.

Smaller collections add to the Shaw focus. There is a good collection of Shaw programs, chiefly of United Kingdom productions (especially London), but also from the United States, Canada, and a few other countries, and a separate (and complete) set of programs (photocopies) of J. T. [End Page 141] Grein’s Independent Theatre (including, of course, Shaw), 1891–94. Two quite small collections contain some unique items: the Robert Hill Collection contains eleven items of correspondence between Shaw and film director and producer Robert Hill, 1941–45, and the Shakespeare Memorial Committee Collection contains two minute-books of the Shakespeare Memorial Committee and National Theatre Association, 1909–12, signed by Shaw (and other committee members, including William Archer).

Somewhat larger is the Augustin Hamon Collection, consisting of Shaw-related theater materials owned by Shaw’s French translator Augustin Hamon and his wife Henriette. The entire Hamon archive has been microfilmed by the University of Guelph. The originals of correspondence and some other manuscript material are housed mainly at the University of Brest, but Guelph owns most of the theater materials, including a magnificent collection of posters of French productions of Shaw plays and draft manuscripts of translations of the plays.

It was not long after the deposit of the Shaw Festival archives at Guelph that the University’s association with Dan H. Laurence began. Dan Laurence’s achievements as a Shaw scholar had by then, of course, long been internationally acclaimed. It was also widely known that he had been collecting Shaw materials for many years, materials that he had generously shared with other scholars. Through his connection with the Shaw Festival (as Literary Advisor), Laurence was aware of Guelph’s acquisition of the Festival archives, and he felt it appropriate that the University be given the opportunity to acquire his personal collection, an ideal scholarly complement to the archives.

After the usual range of activities surrounding the acquisition of a major collection (including some very agreeable trips to Laurence’s home in San Antonio...

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