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Preservation Project2018-11-12T08:39:09+01:00

Preservation Project – “Preserving Circus Memories”

One of the first projects that the newly formed Fédération Mondiale du Cirque launched in 2009 was the Preservation Project: an endeavor aimed at preserving Circus history and culture worldwide through archiving, collecting and exhibiting of circus documents and memorabilia. 

We believe that the preservation is an important step to safeguarding its future, and would lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and recognition of circus both as an art-form and culture.  


Monte-Carlo, Monaco, January 2009 – Roundtable Discussion for Circus Historians, Scholars and Researchers

The Fédération convened a panel of noted circus historians, scholars and researchers to explore the topic of the preservation of circus memory and objects, and to discuss trends, needs and issues regarding the safeguarding of Circus history and culture worldwide. The specific goals were: (a) to create a platform for ongoing communications and collaboration among circus historians, scholars and collectors, (b) and to identify options for the creation of a point of contact that could link owners of circus memorabilia to experts and/or centers engaged in preservation work. The clear conclusion of the Roundtable was that the Fédération could indeed play a significant and unique role in providing a platform through which a worldwide network of persons and institutions involved in the preservation of circus history, artifacts and memorabilia could exchange information and, eventually, perhaps collaborate in the international exchange of exhibitions.


Paris, France, July 2009 – Partnership with the Société Internationale des Bibliothèques et des Musées des Arts du Spectacle (SIBMAS)

Fédération representatives met with SIBMAS to explore collaborative opportunities in preserving Circus archives and collections. As a result of those talks, the Fédération joined SIBMAS as an institutional member and agreed to gather information about existing major Circus archives and collections for SIBMAS’ newly developed searchable database. The Fédération was introduced to the SIBMAS membership in early 2010 via electronic communication by its president. Fédération events, such as World Circus Day, also have been included in SIBMAS’s electronic newsletter.


Monaco, November 2009 – Preservation Project Director Named

The Fédération’s Board of Directors named Rodney Huey, PhD, advisor to the Fédération and circus researcher, to lead the Preservation Project. The board also charged the Preservation Project with a progressive and open-ended agenda to explore the issues, challenges, and communities involved in order to map out activities that the Fédération could undertake to advance the long-term preservation of Circus culture worldwide.


Budapest, Hungary, January 2010 – Preservation of Circus memorabilia and Artifacts

The Hungarian circus association MACIVA, the European Circus Association and the Fédération convened a seminar on the preservation of circus memorabilia and artifacts in conjunction with the 8th International Circus Festival of Budapest, Hungary. Guest speakers included representatives from MACIVA; the Museum of Circus Art, St Petersburg. Russia; Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Canada; the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida; and a private European collector. Among major topics discussed were financial issues facing public collections; the need for additional archival space to house growing collections; the desire for better public access to collections; and positive ways to build better relationships between private and public collectors/collections.


Montreal, Canada, June 2010 – Professional Meeting – “Preserving Our Memory: The Importance of Circus Artifacts”

A professional meeting among leading circus directors, curators and archivists from museums and libraries holding circus collections, as well as private collectors, circus historians, scholars, journalists and Fédération representatives, was hosted by Cirque du Soleil. The meeting explored questions relating to what is collected and for whom, and addressed the issues of terminology and how best to share collections and knowledge. The meeting included a visit to the La Tohu collection and exhibit, the library of the National Circus School, Cirque du Soleil’s “heritage and costumes” collection and a special exhibit of Cirque du Soleil costumes at the McCord Museum. Results of the meeting were presented at the annual SIBMAS conference in Munich, Germany July 2010 by a Fédération representative, and later to the annual meeting of International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) under the theme: “World Congress: Cultures of Modernity”.


Wiesbaden, Germany, October 2010 – Workshop – “Preservation of Circus Memory”

The “Preservation of Circus Memory” workshop, co-sponsored by the Fédération and the European Circus Association, was held in conjunction with the Ninth European Youth Festival. The meeting was hosted by and featured German and Dutch museum administrations and library archivists, as well as private collectors and benefactors from both Germany and the Netherlands. Topics discussed included the content of major German and Dutch circus collections in museums and libraries; the processes and levels of cooperation among public institutions and foundations; and the relationship and common interests among public institutions, foundations and private collectors. The primary conclusion of the workshop, among others, was an “imperative” need for the digitization of circus archives; the possibility of a “shared website” among institutions; and the need among museums, libraries and other public collections for the development of common terminology for cataloguing collections.


Monte-Carlo, Monaco, January 2011 – Development of a Strategic Plan

The Preservation Project clearly demonstrated both the widespread enthusiasm and interest in preserving Circus memory worldwide, and the need for a concrete plan of action with identifiable outputs, timelines, and required resources. As a result, the Fédération developed a long-term strategic plan that would serve as a map and provide a foundation for creating a protocol that would help assure the maintenance of and access to Circus collections worldwide. Among its key points were: (1) creating and maintaining an online database of major circus collections worldwide; (2) development of a glossary of common circus terminology that could be used across nationalities; and (3) devising an online database of circus historians, scholars and researchers and their major publications that could be used as a platform for scholarly collaboration.


Washington, DC October 2012 – Partnership with the World Digital Library

The digitization of images for online accessibility is an important development aimed at sharing cultural and historical material globally through internet technology. To contribute to this process, the Fédération joined the World Digital Library (WDL) as an official Partner to ensure that Circus is included among the digital images of world’s cultural treasures. Created by the United States Library of Congress, the WDL tells the stories and highlights the achievements of multiple countries and cultures to promote cross-cultural awareness and understanding. Iconic Circus images were contributed by the Museum of Circus Art, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Centro Educativo di Documentazione delle atri Circensi, Verona, Italy; Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin (USA); Milner Library, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois (USA); and the Circus Museum at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, United States.


Sarasota, Florida, USA January 2013 – Conference on the Shared Digitization of Circus Collections

Circus curators, archivists, historians, scholars and researchers from museums and libraries from the United States and Europe met at Circus Museum of The John and Mable Ringling Museum for a one-day conference regarding the sharing of digitized circus images online. An open discussion was facilitated by Fédération representatives and web builders, and addressed the feasibility of linking multiple museum online catalogues in one shared website. While conference participants basically supported the idea of sharing images among institutions, it was concluded that multiple legal, technical, financial and institutional concerns would first have to be resolved.



Preservation Project Accomplishments


  • Creation of an Online Circus Collections Database

Under the auspices of the Preservation Project, a searchable online database of major public and institutional circus collections was developed highlighting each institution’s collection and providing contact information. Today, close to 75 major public circus collections from almost 20 countries on four continents are contained in the Fédération’s Collections Database.


  • Development of Research and Publications Databases

Since its creation in 2012, more than 75 researchers from around the world have registered to be part of a searchable Research Database on the Fédération’s website. Researchers were asked to indicate their top three areas of research interest, biographical and contact information, and to list key publications pertaining to circus arts, history and culture in a linked Publications Database.


  • Glossary of Common Circus Terminology

In 2012 the Fédération funded the development and publication of the International Guide to the Circus, edited by Fédération adviser Rodney Huey, PhD. Printed in English, the Guide contains 100 of the most common circus terms across nationalities and cultures, and the terms are translated into eight language. The Guide is intended for use by circus curators and archivists, scholars and researchers, circus artists and directors, laypeople, performing arts critics and the general media. In 2015, the Guide was updated and posted online with a feature that allows qualified researchers to add additional terms.

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