A member of staff working on a project to conserve the collection of silk programmes in ROH Collections © Royal Opera House
A member of staff working on a project to conserve the collection of silk programmes in ROH Collections © Royal Opera House

ROH Archive and Collections

ROH Collections is the historic archive of the Royal Opera House. It is home to an internationally significant collection of archives and objects dating from the 18th century to the present day. It is the largest theatre archive still housed within its own theatre in the United Kingdom.

The collection represents the diverse history of the Royal Opera House, documenting the artistic and organisational history of the three theatres that have stood on our Covent Garden site since 1732. It reflects the wide variety of art forms that have been seen here – from plays, musical entertainments and circuses in the 18th and 19th centuries, through pantomimes, social dancing and concerts, to the operas and ballets which are still performed today. The collection is most comprehensive from 1946 onwards, when the theatre reopened after the end of World War II. It was at this point that The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House were established as resident companies.

The ROH Collections team regularly acquires new materials which you can access both onsite and online. Students, theatre makers, family historians, academics, media professionals and numerous other researchers use the Collections regularly. We also monitor the historic areas of our Grade I listed building and contribute to the exhibitions around the building. You can also find us at some events, sharing stories and special objects from the ROH’s history.

Explore ROH Collections

In our Collection you can find:

●      Historic administrative records

●      Performance photographs

●      Audio and visual recordings of productions

●      Costumes, wigs, accessories and props

●      Set and costume designs

●      Theatrical posters

●      Programmes and playbills dating back to the 18th century

●      Collections relating to significant individuals in the history of the Royal Opera House

●      Details of over 13,000 performances that have taken place at the Royal Opera House

Find more detailed information and digitised content in our online catalogue.

Explore our production details through our online database.

Contact Us

If you have questions about the ROH Collections or the history of the Royal Opera House please contact us. You may also be able to find what you are looking for on the ROH History page.

Not all of our historic archives and performances have been catalogued, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for, please contact us.

You can contact us by phone, email or post. Our opening hours are 9.30am–5.30pm Monday to Friday.

ROH Collections
ROH Collections (Enquiries), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD
Image Licensing

If you would like to license Royal Opera House copyright images from the ROH Collections please contact our image licensing partner, ArenaPAL Image Library.

If your enquiry relates to volunteering or undertaking work experience with ROH Collections, please check the Work Experience webpages where opportunities will be advertised.

Visit ROH Collections

If you would like to do more detailed research, you can visit ROH Collections by appointment. Appointments are available on Thursdays and Fridays, between 10am and 1pm or between 2pm and 5pm. You must contact us before you visit, so that we can advise on availability of material and send a Researcher Application Form.

From October 2021 the ROH Collections are re-opening for research visits. Due to space considerations, a limited number of appointments are available but we may be able to send out scanned material. Please contact us to discuss your research so we can advise on availability of material and appointments.

Before you visit, we ask you to:

  • complete the Researcher Application Form and agree to abide by the regulations and current COVID safety measures of the ROH Collections. We send application forms by post or email – please contact us to receive one. Please return completed forms to the address above.

When you arrive, you must:

  • present photographic identification upon arrival at the ROH Collections. Acceptable ID includes a passport or driving licence. We do not accept reader’s tickets issued by the British Library or the National Archives as a form of identification.
Donations

The Royal Opera House Collections welcomes donations and bequests of material relating to the Royal Opera House and its resident companies to enhance our holdings. Please note we can only accept donations that fall within the scope of our Acquisition Policy. All donations will be cared for and preserved to archival standards and will be made available to researchers.