Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive, 1994-2006

Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive, 1994-2006

Finding Aid

Collection No. 47
D.C. Community Archives


The Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive was originally donated to the D.C. Community Archives but moved in 2004 to the University of Maryland Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. A collection of all performances is co-located in the Community Archives. 


During the 1980s, Jim Taylor, then a successful city planner in his 50s, decided to make a dramatic career jump and return to the world of theatre that he loved so dearly in college. Taylor began this new career at Round House Theatre in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and quickly began to find success.

Within a few years, Taylor identified a limitation of a performance: it exists only in the memory of the audience. He decided that some form of performance archive was needed to document Washington theatre. Taylor took it upon himself to return to college to learn about filmmaking and to work out the legal implications with Actors Equity in New York. Then he began to shoot. Thus, in 1991, Taylor, serving as Producing Director, established the Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive (WAPAVA for short).

Earlier in December 2004, just before the winter holidays, a new chapter in the history of WAPAVA began as the archives of over 360 recorded productions then housed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. was collocated with the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland – established there as the James J. Taylor Collection of WAPAVA.

The mission of WAPAVA is to build a professional videotape archive of theatre, dance and other live performance as an educational and artistic resource not only for the Washington area, but internationally, as well. WAPAVA’s archive of performances runs the entire gamut of local professional production from the Kennedy Center, the Shakespeare Theatre and Arena Stage to smaller companies and, sometimes, more adventurous groups. Washington, D.C., is now known worldwide as a leading performing arts center in the United States. It is second only to New York in its number of professional theater companies.

In 2004, WAPAVA signed an unprecedented co-location agreement with its original home, Washingtoniana at DC Public Library, and the University of Maryland Libraries that established the Taylor Collection at the Michelle Smith Library. Under terms of the agreement, the Smith Library becomes primary caretaker for the archive, but viewing copies of all performances are still housed at Washingtoniana. With the Smith Library’s recently installed remote video delivery system, the viewing experience at this 5-year-old facility is second to none. Materials from WAPAVA began to be available for use there in the Fall 2005 semester.

Scope and Content Note

The WAPAVA collection is housed in acid-free boxes and arranged chronologically. The database, however, offers different points of access to the collection. Fields include production title, Theatre/Troupe name, start and end dates, and box number. For the most part, a copy of the original program accompanies WAPAVA titles from each production. WAPAVA productions are available in one of two formats, VHS or DVD. As technologies change, so will the formats that WAPAVA uses.


Restrictions do exist on the use of the WAPAVA collection.  Please contact the D.C. Community Archives Archivist for more information.

Related Collections

James J. Taylor/WAPAVA Collection, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland.

Video Inventory

List available from the WAPAVA video database. Please contact the University of Maryland to view the WAPAVA recordings. The D.C. Community Archives' duplicate viewing collection is inaccessible during the three-year Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization.


DC Public Library, Special Collections
D.C. Community Archives

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