The Melville collection tells the story of a once thriving, theatrical family. It consists of play texts, some photocopied playbills, programmes, photographs, items relating to specific theatres, publicity material and a large number of personal papers. The collection was acquired in several batches from 1990 onwards, including the purchase of the Bad Woman Dramas, plays written by Frederick Melville and Walter Melville. These were plays with a strong moral theme, very much suited to the tastes of the day.
When the material was received it had no immediately apparent order and so the decision was taken to sort it into a series of categories, consisting of theatres, biography, publicity material, periodicals, playtexts, programmes, playbills, Melville associates, music and miscellaneous. The collection comprises ca 1,500 items.
See an overview of the contents.
Acquisition and cataloguing
Andrew Melville III had assembled the collection for the purpose of writing a book about his family. After his death in 1988 the material was offered to the University of Sussex, by his widow Joan. They declined on the grounds that their courses didn't cover drama of this period, but suggested that the University of Kent, with its thriving Drama Department and its library collections of Victorian popular plays and playbills might be interested. The Templeman Library acquired the Melville collection with the help of Jan Shepherd of the Drama Department and Professor Louis James (English and American Literature) who held the chair of 'Victorian Melodrama' at that time.
Funding was received under the Non-Formula Funding Programme (Follett Funding) to conserve and catalogue all the material in the Victorian & Edwardian Theatre Collection. The documents were rehoused in acid free containers and are kept in a special store air conditioned by equipment bought with the non-formula funding provided by the Follett initiative.
Most of the collection is catalogued on the MODES+ for Archives system and accessible through the search facility.
The 'Bad Woman Dramas' and the other manuscript and typescript texts are in LibrarySearch.