Dealing with archives is often like being a detective or putting a jigsaw puzzle together. You have some information or records, but the picture is incomplete and you have to do some research. This was the case recently when one of the conservation team at Archives & Heritage asked that a large film poster that was loose in pieces be put together into some sort of order so it could be packed ready for the move to the new Library of Birmingham building.
This poster was first seen right at the start of the REP100 project which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Birmingham Repertory Theatre and putting together a website using images and information from The Rep’s archives held at Archives & Heritage. It was used to show the project team examples of The Rep archive material and was put on display in the Archives & Heritage searchroom on the 6th floor of the Central Library. We wondered why the poster was with The Rep material but it was put to one side as other records were catalogued, until the request came to sort it out. The first attempt at putting the poster together where it was housed on the 7th floor failed because there were more pieces than expected and it kept growing larger as it was placed on the floor and we ran out of room.
Peering over the balcony on the 7th floor suggested an idea and so the second attempt was successful because the searchroom floor below had more room. But there was a problem when the pieces were assembled. The poster, which was promoting the 1934 film ‘As You Like It’ was incomplete because the face of one of the stars Elizabeth Bergner was missing. Then other poster pieces in a separate box were remembered and her face was found. The box also contained pieces of two other posters advertising the same film so these were put together as well to join the larger poster on the searchroom floor.
The reason for the poster being in The Rep material then became apparent because the co-star was Laurence Olivier, a former member of The Rep. But we’re still not sure what The Rep planned to do with the poster – whether it was going to display it somewhere or just wanted it out of interest.
Gary Collins, REP100 Project Archivist