The Theater History Collections at Freie Universität Berlin have been built up since the 1950s with the aim of making theater-related material available to both faculty and students. The collections follow in the tradition of source-based theater studies research established in Berlin by Max Herrmann (1865–1942).
Besides actively collecting playbills and reviews of current productions in Berlin (extensive holdings well into the 1990s for West and East Berlin), the Institute for Theater Studies maintains the Walter Unruh Collection (deposited by the State of Berlin), one of the largest former private collections on Berlin’s theater history from the 18th to the 20th centuries. In addition, the Institute for Theater Studies holds major artists’ estates, as well as extensive collections of photographs, playbills, and press clippings.
To make the archival holdings more accessible to the general public and to facilitate new forms of access, the Theater History Collections are currently in the process of digitizing selected holdings.