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.

New Circus
From the traditional travelling circuses, with their animal acts, menageries and caravans, there has developed contemporary circuses without animals, combining physical theatre and circus and opening opportunities for children whose experience of circus may previously have been limited.
Traditional Circus
The circus community has had a long and happy association with what is now the site of Arts Centre Melbourne. Since the 1870s, the site has played host to a number of traditional circuses including Cooper and Bailey's, Wirths' Circus, Cole's Circus and Menagerie, Chiarini's Royal Italian Circus and FitzGerald Brother's Circus.
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