Library-museum

The library-museum is the department that has been dedicated to the memory of the Comédie-Française, its history and the history of the Troupe, for over three centuries. It is responsible for the archival and museum heritage of the theatre.

Collections that are unique in the world

A library-museum in a theatre

Its main task is the preservation, enrichment, provision and promotion of the collections in its care. It maintains close links with researchers, academics and, more generally, theatre historians.

Its team also participates in the daily life of the theatre by providing the actors, staff and guest artists with the documentation they need to prepare productions.

The consultation of certaincollections requires the authorisation of the curator-archivist, in particularthe collection of precious works, the individual folders, large formats andcollections awaiting classification. Consulting the artworks and objectsrequires a specific appointment with the curator-archivist.

Closed annually in August and thefirst fortnight of September.

Collections that are unique in the world: the immense collection, which is unique in the world, originated in the small room next to the assembly chamber, which housed the cabinet for keeping the “titles and papers” of the Company. The key to the cabinet was given to the actor in charge of keeping this treasure safe.

Concerned public

The library caters for a specialised public of researchers, theatre professionals and students.
Iconographers, journalists and theatre specialists are accepted subject to justifying that their research warrants the use of the library collections.

Research tools

Part of the collection is described in inventories and catalogues that may be consulted on site. For other documents, the librarian on duty will provide the necessary information.

Reference books

  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Reference books on theatre, actors, artists, and the history of the Comédie-Française
  • Recent programmes and periodicals
  • Comédie-Française publications
  • Activity reports
  • Exhibition catalogues.

Photocopies are possible, except for old documents, or documents that are fragile or in poor condition.
Information is available by phone, post and e-mail.
Sale of old publications in stock (programmes, magazines, etc.).

A museum in a theatre

The exhibited collections include several hundred artworks, primarily paintings and sculptures, displayed both in public areas and in private parts of the building, foyers, corridors, meeting rooms,offices, etc. Consequently, the museum cannot be visited freely.

But where is the Comédie-Française museum?

In this museum, there are no exhibition rooms,but there is a guided tour by a lecturer that is available to groups. The guide-lecturer tells the history of the House of Molière and the theatre through the art collection. It is an insitu museum, featuring collections that share the lives of productions: a costume rack can hide a painting, turning a corner one may see the prop managers’ baskets, before coming face to face with the portrait of Rachel,Talma or Sarah Bernhardt. There is therefore an element of the unexpected inthese visits whose itinerary can be modified at any time by an unfore seen event registered on the daily service bulletin.

Loans to external exhibitions:
The collections of the library-museum may be loaned toother museums for exhibitions in France or abroad. The nature of these loans isas varied as the collections themselves: artworks, manuscripts, photographs, costume or set models, manuscripts or archival documents, programmes or posters.

The archives of the theatre

Since 1680 and right up to today, the library-museum is responsible for collecting and preserving the archives of the Comédie-Française. It is the only theatre in the world to have preserved its archives within its walls for such a long period. Indeed, this Troupe,established with a company status, has always been keen to preserve its archives, which applies to accounts and administrative documents, but also to prompter manuscripts, models, descriptions of stagings, artistic correspondence, audiovisual and photographic documents, plans and so on. These documents make it possible to trace and represent all the activity of a theatre, the history of a community of actors, but also the history of French theatre.

From handwritten registers to digital documents,the Comédie-Française’s archives constitute one of the richest and most complete collections in the world.

Some series are still being classified.

Delays apply as follows before documents are made available for consultation: a period of 25 years after the date of creation for administrative archives, a period of 120 years after birth or 25 years after death for personnel records, subject to exceptions.

The library of the Repertoire, the documentation centre of the theatre

As part of its mission to provide documentation that may be necessary for productions, the library-museum preserves both the published texts of plays, in successive editions and translations, but also communication materials used to present productions when they were created, or materials relating to their reception (press reviews, image files, etc.).

A tool for the theatre, the library is also a richsource of information for researchers.

Copies of plays that have been annotated by the actors or by the artistic staff testify to the daily work on texts. However, this raw material of performance is not confined to the canonical versions of plays. Thus, the library is nota classic library, but a library of annotated works.

Catalogues:
The works have been catalogued in the La Grange database since 2006. Works acquired before 2006 are catalogued in a paper file that can be consulted on site.

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