Actress Clara Ziegler (1844-1909) founded the collections of the Deutsches Theatermuseum (German Theatre Museum) in 1909, when she donated her villa near the Englische Garten in Munich, her considerable self-made fortune and her own collection for the institution of a theatre museum. The museum was inaugurated on 24 June 1910. While the villa was bombed out in 1944, c.90% of the collections had fortunately been brought to safety in time. Losses were mainly reported for the collection of posters and reviews. In 1953, the Clara-Ziegler-Stiftung was able to move into the Galerietrakt (gallery wing) of the Churfürstliche Galerie (Electoral Gallery) near the Munich Hofgarten (court gardens), built in 1780/1781, where it eventually gained the status of an autonomous public museum in 1979.
The Deutsche Theatermuseum has the task to preserve theatrical/scenic memory through its collections, which are of considerable international importance. Beyond the important tasks of collecting, preserving and analysing, the work of the museum also consists in the dissemination of information about the preserved material to the widest possible audience by way of exhibitions and publications.
The collections, which are stored on the premises of the museum on the Galeriestraße in Munich as well as in a separate warehouse, include nearly everything that serves for documenting a theatre performance or for its preparation. The collections comprise c.250,000 graphic sheets, c.500,000 autographs and c.4.3 million theatre photographs.
The collection’s focus is not exclusively on Munich but refers on Germany as a whole. The documentation, however, also traces the European connections of the theatre, for example during the age of Baroque. In addition, the Deutsche Theatermuseum also owns a large number of original graphic works. The most valuable collections of the library date back to the Renaissance era. In addition, the Theatermuseum also preserves the most substantial collection of theatre photographs worldwide by which the genre’s origins are documented as well.
Additions to the collections focus on the completion of valuable historical holdings of the museum as well as on the documentation of contemporary theatre.