Here, carefully packed into boxes and folders, and on the shelves, organised according to a strict system, testimonies to the most fleeting art form of all – the theatre – awaits researchers. The collection features more than 200,000 holdings of all kinds relating to the history of Latvian theatre and cinema, as well as people connected with these fields: photographs of Latvian actors, directors, and other employees of the theatre; photographs of stage productions; notes on the role; stage costumes and production props; as well as programmes, posters and actors’ keepsakes.
The theatre collection started taking shape in the 1920s; the first exhibition on the history of Latvian theatre was opened for viewing as early as in 1924. This collection was made possible by Hermanis Kaupiņš, a journalist, politician, theatre employee and enthusiast, whose extensive private archive, which contains miscellaneous material on the subject of Latvian theatre, currently forms part of the collection. Thanks to H. Kaupiņš, the collection holds material related to the father of Latvian theatre, Ādolfs Alunāns; the great actresses Berta Rūmniece and Dace Akmentiņa; and the first Latvian stage educator, actor and director, Jēkabs Duburs, among other pioneers of the performing arts. Over the course of decades, the collection has been supplemented with material related to giants of the stage Eduards Smiļģis, Alfreds Amtmanis-Briedītis, Anta Klints, Nikolajs Mūrnieks, Pēteris Pētersons and Elza Radziņa, among others. Along with collections related to people involved in the theatre, the museum also holds collections related to theatres – from the Riga Latvian Theatre, with its unique collection of actors’ notes on their roles and directors’ notes on plays (such as their interpretation of productions), right up to theatres of the present day. Legendary theatres that have ceased to exist, such as the Workers’ Theatre, Jelgava Theatre and the Youth Theatre, among others, also deserve a mention. The depository also holds a significant collection of material related to theatre performances put on by Latvians in exile.
Thanks to the activities of the Eduards Smiļģis Theatre Museum, the theatre collection regularly has new material added to it. Archives related to the Youth Theatre actors Vera Singajevska and Tālivaldis Āboliņš; the theatre critic Maija Augstkalna; and the historian of theatre Tatjana Vlasova are just a few that could be named of the more than 5,000 items acquired in 2017 alone.
Head curator of the theatre and cinema history collection Andra Lazdāne