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Frequently Asked Questions

Stratford Festival Archives Database

  1. How do I search the catalogue?
  2. What is available for searching in the catalogue?
  3. I conducted a search and got no results. What does this mean?
  4. There is an icon in my search results that says No Image Available. Why can't I see an image?
  5. Why are there blue plus and minus signs at the bottom of the archives search results?
  6. How do I get a copy of a photograph or document for use in a project, publication, etc.?
  7. I would like to access material I found in the catalogue. How do I make an appointment to visit the archives?

For questions that do not appear on the list, please contact the Archives Catalogue Help Desk

Question mark


How do I Search the Catalogue?

There are two ways to search the catalogue: either through the Simple Search Interface or the Advanced Search Interface. Both interfaces can be accessed by clicking buttons on the Introduction page, which is the first page you see upon opening the catalogue website.

Next to each search category on both the Advanced and Simple Interface, you will see blue help buttons that look like this: Help Button. Clicking these buttons will give you detailed information about how to search within each category.

For more advanced information on searching, the following guides are available for download:


What is Available for Searching in the Catalogue?

The collections of the Stratford Festival Archives are vast, diverse, and constantly expanding. Only a small portion of our holdings are currently represented in our catalogue. Representation is increasing in size and quality daily. Check back frequently for updates.

Inquiries regarding material not currently represented in the catalogue should be directed to the Stratford Festival Archives.

Materials Currently Represented in the Catalogue

  • Wardrobe Materials
    • 2900 components including clothing, jewelry, headgear and accessories
    • All headgear (ie. hats, crowns, bonnets, etc.) from 1953 to 2017
    • All masks from 1953 to 2015

  • Production Photography
    • 11,300 on-the-run images (ie. images typically taken during a live dress rehearsal, or staged to simulate the latter)
    • On-the-run black and white images for all mainstage productions from 1953-2000, and colour images from 2001-2003

  • Photobreaks
    • 600 behind-the-scenes, candid, promotional or general images from the early 1950s (mainly 1953)

  • Stage Management Materials
    • Prompt Book and Stage Management Script descriptions for all productions directed by Tyrone Guthrie

  • Press Clippings
    • 10,300 descriptions of clippings, with preview images
    • Descriptions of all clippings from 1949-1955
    • Descriptions of clippings from January to August of 1956

  • Audio-Visual Material
    • Information on 650 recordings of Stratford Festival Productions

  • Production Records
    • 800 main stage productions represented, with cast lists, synopses, dates and credits included

  • Biographical Profiles
    • Information on 8000 individuals/companies associated with the Festival
    • Stratford Festival Production credits listed for cast members, crew members and select craftspersons

  • Private Collections
    • Tom Patterson Collection: select correspondence (approx. 170 pieces)
    • Tyrone Guthrie Collection: select correspondence (approx. 100 pieces)


I Conducted a Search and Got no Results. What Does This Mean?

A lack of results could mean one of three things:

  • The items for which you are searching are not represented in the catalogue
    The online catalogue is not a complete representation of everything in the archives. To find out what materials are currently represented in the catalogue, click here. To inquire about materials not represented in the catalogue, contact the Stratford Festival Archives.

  • The search parameters were entered incorrectly
    Blue help buttons are located to the right of each search category box in both the Simple and Advanced search modules. These buttons look like this Help Button and provide detailed information on how to search effectively within each category. You can also click here for helpful searching instructions and guides.

  • The search was conducted in the wrong collection
    Due to the nature of our cataloguing software, items in the catalogue must be categorized into one of four collections. Searching for items in collections where they are not stored can lead to a search with no results. Here is a brief description of what is stored in each collection:

    • Object Collection: physical items such as props, costumes and set pieces.

    • Archives Collection: informational material such as photographs, designs, recordings and stage management records.

    • Production/Event Register: listings of productions and events hosted or created by the Festival with accompanying cast and crew lists.

    • Person/Institution Register: professional biographical information on individuals or companies who have worked with the Festival.

    Selecting a collection in which to search varies between the Simple Search Interface and the Advanced Search Interface.

    In the Simple Search Interface, click the checkboxes with the names of the collections you would like to search. You may search more than one collection at a time, but cannot view results from multiple collections simultaneously. The catalogue will prompt you to select a group of results from a single collection if you choose to search more than one collection at one time.

    In the Advanced Search Interface, select the collection of interest from the drop-down menu next to the search category titled Search In. You can only search one collection at one time in the Advanced Search Interface. The exception to this rule is the Archives and Object Collection, both of which can be searched simultaneously by selecting Objects and Archives Collection from the Search-In drop-down menu.


There is an Icon in my Search Results That says ‘No Image Available.’ Why Can’t I see an Image?

No Image Available icons can mean one of three things:

  • A photograph or scan of the item in question has not yet been created
    Photographs and scans of items in our collection are created on an individual basis, and in accordance with national archival standards. This is a time consuming process, but ensures that resulting images are accurate and suitable for long-term use. While images are added daily, it is not uncommon for items to be represented in the catalogue without them.

  • The record in question represents a group of materials
    In archives, materials are organized into hierarchical groups (fonds, series, files and items). These groups function much like physical filing cabinets, grouping related materials together. Since these group descriptions refer to multiple items, it is impossible to represent them with a single image. For more information on hierarchical description and how it can be used as a research tool, click here.

  • Displaying an image with the associated item would constitute a violation of law
    Many materials in our collection are subject to copyright, or agreements governed by professional associations regarding the depiction of artists’ work. As such, there are certain materials within the collection that cannot legally be displayed online.

All materials represented in the catalogue, including those without associated images, are available for onsite consultation. To book an appointment, contact the Stratford Festival Archives.


Why are There Blue Plus and Minus Signs at the Bottom of the Archives Search Results?

Materials in archives are organized into hierarchical groups known as fonds, series, files and items. It is best to think of these structures like a physical cabinet, with the fonds being the cabinet, the series being individual drawers, the files being files, and the items being papers within each file.

When blue plus and minus signs are present, the record in question is part of this kind of hierarchical structure. Clicking the plus and minus signs will allow you to see other parts of the structure in which the record is organized.

For example, clicking a plus sign on a file record for 1979 audio-visual materials will give you a list of all items in that file (that is, all audio-visual recordings from that year, such as Ned and Jack 1979, Othello 1979, etc.). You can then click on an individual item record (say, the record for Othello 1979) to see more information about that recording. Similarly, clicking the plus sign on the initial file record will display a list of audio-visual files for all years of the Festival (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, etc.). This structure allows a researcher to jump easily between related materials in a collection.

This structure is a national standard and is common to all archives in Canada. Similar hierarchal structures are used in archives around the world. While it is entirely possible to search the catalogue effectively without using these structures, they are valuable tools for those who are acquainted with them.


How do I Get a Copy of a Photograph or Document for use in a Project, Publication, etc.?

Where copyright permits, we can make photocopies and reproductions for users, for which a charge applies. If you can’t come in yourself and need a member of staff to help with research, a charge also applies. Please contact the Stratford Festival Archives with your specific request for more information. When possible, mention the catalogue reference code of your desired item in your request. Reference codes are listed on the catalogue records, and typically start with a three-letter code followed by a number. Examples include GPO_1971_001_0284, and PRV/0002/003/0002.

Please also be aware that restrictions apply to photographs and other materials covered under agreements governed by Canadian Actor’s Equity Association and other professional associations. For more information on our standard photo release procedure and the fees involved therein, consult the Stratford Festival Archives Services Website, and read the section titled Photo Release Procedures.


I Would Like to Access Material I Found in the Catalogue. How do I Make an Appointment to visit the Archives?

The archives are free and open to everyone. Please contact us before visiting so that we can help make the most of your time. Our phone number and email information is available in the right-hand side bar of the Stratford Festival Archival Services Website. When possible, mention the reference code of the item(s) that interests you in your request. Reference codes are listed on catalogue records, and typically start with a three-letter code followed by a number. Examples include GPO_1971_001_0284 and PRV/0002/003/0002.

For more information about our holdings visit the
Stratford Festival Archival Services Website

For technical questions not addressed above, contact the Archives Catalogue Help Desk