Performing Arts Collection
Circus Collection
Circus Collection

As the official national archive to the circus industry, Arts Centre Melbourne's Performing Arts Collection plays a leading role in the preservation of circus material and traditions in Australia. This task is facilitated by a committed, enthusiastic circus network.

The circus collection includes costumes, props, posters and photographs representing many of Australia's best-loved traditional circuses including the Ashton family circuses, Holden Brothers', Wirths', Perry Brothers and Sole Brothers. Items such as Ashton's handwritten touring schedules and the Holden Brother's correspondence school notes provide a window into life on-the-road while sequined and spangled costumes speak of Big Top glamour.

The emergence of 'new circus' troupes since the 1970s is also documented through objects and archives that reflect the importance of humour, gender politics and nationalism to this new form of physical expression. Colourful costumes including Circus Oz's iconic lifesaver 'cossie' vie for space with photographs capturing the formative days of Melbourne's Soapbox Circus and Circus Oz and diminutive costumes from the Flying Fruit Fly Circus.

Poster featuring Con Colleano, Wizard of the Wire, c1930s
Bodysuit worn by members of Circus Oz, 1980
Mural commemorating Wirth Bros. Circus in Melbourne, 'The Greatest Show On Earth'
Poster for Ivan Bros. Top of the World Internatinal Circus
Programme, Wirth Bros Greatest Show On Earth, 1926
Poster for Perry Bros. Circus, The Show of Shows
Alberto's Circus
Collection holdings include photographs, Posters, Programmes. Date Range: 1970s.
Andrewartha, Olive & Frank
Collection holdings include certificates, objects, photographs and relates to the history of the Victorian Arts Centre Site and Wirth's Roller Skating Palais. Date Range 1931 - 1943.
Ashton's Family Circuses
The Ashton family has had a long association with the Performing Arts Collection, and from the early 1980s, has regularly donated material to form the Ashton Family Collection. Collection holdings include costumes, 3-dimensional objects, posters, programmes, and subject boxes. Date Range: 1880s to 1990s.
Australian Performing Group
Australian Performing Group (APG) holdings consist of documents, flyers, newsletters, photographs, programmes, scripts. Theatre 1960s - 1980s
Bullen's Circus
Collection holdings include photographs, posters, programmes. Date Range: 1950s - 1980s.
Circus General
The Performing Arts Collection has a small general subject area relating to circus including newsletters, programmes, reports, slides of circus artists. Date Range 1880s - 1990s.
Circus Royale / Circus Startime
Collection holdings include photographs, posters, programmes, subject boxes. Date Range 1970s - 1980s.
Circus Oz
Circus Oz is a celebration of diversity; a new form of circus that blends theatre, modern dance, popular culture and current social issues with traditional circus skills and acts. The collection includes photographs, posters, programmes, subject boxes and costumes. Date Range: 1978 - 2004.
Colleano, Con
Con Colleano (1889-1973) began his circus life in his family's rural circus, the Colleano's All Star Circus. Other Colleano Family members are represented in the collection, including Maurice Colleano, acrobat, dancer and comedian; his wife Elsie Bower, Hoyce, George and Lyn, and Winnie Trevail.
Colonial Circus Research
Research files, reference material and books relating to circus during colonial period compiled by Fred Braid MBE.
Flying Fruit Fly Circus
The current Flying Fruit Fly Circus School is Australia's only full time circus training school for school-aged children. Collection holdings include costumes, posters, photographs, programmes. Date Range: 1979 - 2001.
The Great Carmo's Circus
Material relating to The Great Carmo's Circus includes a poster, postcards, booklets.
Hawkes, Ponch
Ponch Hawkes has been a member of Circus Oz since its inception in 1978, working as a resident lighting designer and the company’s photographer. Hawkes has also been commissioned by Chamber Made Opera, Melbourne Workers Theatre and Malthouse Theatre, all of which are represented in the Performing Arts Collection.
Holden Brothers' Circus
Holden Brothers' Circus was formed in Melbourne in 1892. Collection holdings include costumes, objects, posters, programmes, subject boxes. Date Range: 1900 - 1994.
Ivan Brothers' Circus
The Performing Arts Collection holds a small collection of Ivan Borthers' Circus posters dating from the 1930s.
Jandaschewsky, Arthur 'Jandy the Clown'
Arthur Jandaschewsky, or Jandy the Clown, performed for most of his life in Australia. The Jandaschewsky family came to Australia in 1900 to perform in the FitzGerald Brother's Circus. Collection holdings include objects (bells), biographical file, posters. Date Range; 1930s - 1960s.
Lennon Brothers' Circus
Collection holdings include programmes, photographs and posters, 1970s.
Perry Brothers' Circus
Collection holdings include photographs, posters, programmes. Date range, 1920s - 1980s.
Polish Cyrk Posters
Polish circus posters by various designers, 1969-1981.
Silver's Circus
Silver's Circus was established in 1974 by Anton and Anna Gasser. Swiss immigrants, the Gassers can trace their circus lineage back through five generations to 1880.
Soapbox Circus
Collection holdings include posters, and references in the general circus subject area. Date Range 1975 - 1977.
Sole Brothers' Circus
Collection holdings include photographs, posters, programmes. Date Range: 1900s - 1980s.
Victorian Arts Centre Site
Since the late nineteenth century the site on which the Victorian Arts Centre now stands has been associated with entertainment and the performing arts. Collection holdings include objects, documents and ephemera relating to former uses of the site where the Victorian Arts Centre Buildings now stand.
Wirths' Circus
Wirths' Circus was one of the most well known travelling circuses within Australia in the early 1900s. Collection holdings include objects, photographs, posters, programmes, autograph album, subject box. Date Range: 1888 - 1950s.
Women's Circus
Collection holdings include costumes, photographs, newspaper clippings and promotional material relating to the history of the Women's Circus. Date range 1991 to 2004.
Opera Collection
Dance Collection
Music Collection
Theatre Collection
Supporting Collections