Workshop: Exploring the Personal Archive of Oliver Messel

Exploring the Personal Archive of Oliver Messel

Wednesday 5 December 2-4.30pm, at The Theatre Collection, 21 Park Row, Bristol

Join the Centre for Material Texts at the Theatre Collection for an afternoon exploring the personal archive of Oliver Messel, one of the ‘bright young things’ in 1920s London, and widely regarded as one of the last century’s foremost theatrical designers.

The Personal Archive of Oliver Messel was recently acquired by the Theatre Collection at the University of Bristol. Alongside the Oliver Messel Design Archive, housed at the V&A, it provides a comprehensive history of Messel’s life and work, which were so often intertwined. It includes photographic scrapbooks, sketchbooks, costume and set designs, stage and architectural plans, interior and furniture designs from the Caribbean, and a selection of plaster casts, masks and costumes, as well as professional and personal correspondence from amongst others; Lauren Bacall, Max Beerbohm, John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh and Michael Redgrave, and images by leading photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Lord Snowdon, as well as many by Messel himself.

The Archive contains a rich array of material, including sketchbooks from Messel’s travels, a large number of photograph albums which include personal memories of family and friends (including images captured backstage on Hollywood film sets), reference albums for stage and screen designs,  a variety of press cutting albums collated by Messel which relate to various productions, his social life, art and design commissions and production stills. In addition to these are a number of notes, manuscripts, exhibition catalogues and associated texts providing rich ground for exploration.

Workshop participants will have an opportunity to tour the new exhibition, Wake Up and Dream, handle original items, and discuss new research opportunities whilst learning more about the Messel Archive and how to access and work with the Collection in the future.

Please email john.mctague[at] and gemma.brace[at] to reserve a place.

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