As New Yorkers space is at a premium. Most of us do not have a basement or an attic or even an extra closet that we can dedicate to our company archives. So being judicious about what artifacts we keep is important.
When deciding what information to keep, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will the archive be used?
You may be documenting your productions as a way of establishing a company history or providing a report to funders. Perhaps you are compiling information for a publicity campaign or research for an academic project. Maybe you want to inspire future company members or, maybe you are contributing your company information to a larger community-wide archive. Whatever the reason, each of these intentions require different pieces of information. For example, a researcher may not need press quotes, but a publicity campaign would definitely benefit from that resource.
- Who will be using this archive?
This is sort of an extension of 'How' the archive will be used, but it is important to take into consideration that different people access information differently. For example you have a production photo. If the photo is going to be used by a graphic designer, you may need a digital file that is available in 72dpi and 300dpi. If the photo is going to be sent to a funder, you may need high a quality printed copy.
- Will this item/information have value or provide insight or be of relevance in the future?
An audience member scribbles a note on the back of their program, "Great show. You should all be very proud." This is something that may not have a logistical place in your archive, but if the signature accompanying the note is Edward Albee's, this artifact may have a different kind of relevance. A small painting used as set dressing may end up getting donated to the Good Will unless the painting was contributed by Banksy, in which case there may be some value in keeping it.
- What does your gut tell you?
Maybe that painting was not contributed by Banksy, but by your six year old nieces and you just have a strong personal connection to the piece. Or there is just something about that scarf from the third act. Gut reactions don't always have to be logical.
- What realistically will you be able to preserve?
Deciding what to keep is one of the most difficult part of archiving. The unfortunate reality is that you will not be able to preserve everything. You may have had the most incredible giant paper mâché head, but you simply do not have the room to store it. Take lots of pictures and be at peace with the fact that you can only do what you can do.