The Archive and its mission

The Barry Kay Archive – a non-profit-oriented organization founded in 1985 – identifies itself as the patron institution dedicated to honouring the artistic achievements of the late Australian-born stage and costume designer, and photographer, Barry Kay (1932-1985).

The Archive holds and looks after several hundred of Kay’s designs, consisting of preliminary sketches, final costume and set drawings, and models. It also keeps a wide range of written and printed materials, such as Kay’s correspondence and personal notes, costume fabric logs and stage layout plans, press and book publications, interviews, and accounts of oral history – all key components to counteract the transience of intangible heritage.

Our progressively expanding illustrated electronic publication is an invaluable research facility of Kay’s extensive artistic output, serving the academic world as well as the private sector and the humanities at large.

As the Archive is privately run, needing to sustain itself without any external financial support, its only window to the world is the internet. General public viewing of its holdings is therefore restricted to its online display. However, for theatre academics and professionals, wishing to view the material for information and research purposes, physical access and viewing may be arranged by appointment. In such case, a written request to the Curator, stating the intended reason, would be appreciated.

Obbicht Castle in Limburg, The Netherlands. Current location of the Barry Kay Archive.

The primary purpose of the Barry Kay Archive is to encourage and promote, in the broadest sense possible, awareness and appreciation of Barry Kay as an acclaimed theatre designer and photographer, and of the artistic legacy he left to us to enjoy.

By making a selection of digital images available via the internet of his stage and costume designs as well as of his photographic works, and in providing year-by-year biographic data and written accounts of his professional activities and engagements, we are in a continual process of establishing a comprehensive overview of his achievements.

The Archive preserves, conserves and archives Kay’s works and represents a model project for digitizing an artistic theatre design estate. Further tasks consist of step-by-step collating, indexing and cataloguing of all visual and non-visual materials, and of researching for missing biographic and historic details.

We consider it equally important to chart oral history before it is lost to oblivion. This includes transcribing audio, film and video interviews and recordings as much as chronicling first-hand knowledge of past events imparted by Barry Kay himself and by third parties.

As an integral part of the Archive’s mandate, we are committed to sharing and exchanging information. We therefore interact with institutions and organizations concerned with maintaining performing arts-related holdings and records. Over the years, reciprocal cooperation and collaboration were successfully concluded on a number of occasions nationally and internationally.

We research and authenticate Kay’s designs and offer written valuations of items for insurance and sales purposes. Nominal charges may apply.

In running a non-profit entity, needing to be self-sustaining, we also engage with commercial enterprises seeking to use Kay’s designs and photographs – subject to the proviso that our cause is furthered and due credit is given respectively to Barry Kay and the Barry Kay Archive. For this purpose, we typically require the signing of a commercial usage agreement outlining terms, conditions and remunerations.

In our efforts of preserving Kay’s irreplaceable creations for posterity, and before they become untraceable, we are always interested in acquiring his designs – means permitting.

We also represent Kay’s posthumous interests such as performing rights to productions still in the repertory and the publication of his designs, photographs and writings.

The worldwide copyright to Barry Kay’s artistic and intellectual properties was held by the Archive’s Founder, Michael Werner. After Michael’s death in 2019, all the above mentioned rights were inherited by Hubertus Janssen-Werner, the current Archive administrator.

For enquiries please complete the contact form.

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The Barry Kay Archive is indexed by the National Register of Archives and its ARCHON Directory (ARCHives ONline) of record repositories in the UK.

The National Library of Australia, committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting cultural value and bound by stringent selection criteria, identified the Barry Kay Archive as “heritage of national significance with long-term research value”. As a result, The Archive’s online publication was selected for preservation and retained in the Library’s database PANDORA (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia) to provide independent public access to it in perpetuity.

The Archive is an institutional member of SIBMAS (Société Internationale des Bibliothèques et des Musées des Arts du Spectacle / International Association of Libraries and Museums of the Performing Arts), and of APAC (Association of Performing Arts Collections), the UK affiliate of SIBMAS.