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Tommy Cooper archive acquired by V&A

Tommy Cooper's gag file. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London Tommy Cooper's gag file. Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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Props, posters and correspondence from Tommy Cooper’s personal archive have been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The V&A has purchased the Tommy Cooper Collection, which comprises more than 116 boxes of archive material, as well as 24 props and posters from throughout the magician and comedian’s career.

Items include Cooper’s ‘gag file’ – a catalogued collection of his jokes – as well as personal correspondence, merchandise and posters from Cooper’s 40-year career, which ended in 1984 when he died mid-performance on live television. Also acquired are contracts from his career, dating from 1946 to 1984, including those he could not fulfil following his sudden death.

The largest archive of its kind, a selection of the Tommy Cooper Collection will go on display for the first time this autumn in the V&A’s theatre and performance galleries.

The V&A will also make the archive available for research via its digital records.

Simon Sladen, senior curator of modern and contemporary performance at the V&A, said the collection offered a “fascinating insight” into the practice, process and legacy of one of the best-loved entertainers of the 20th century.

“Although it doesn’t contain one of his iconic fezzes, the rich collection contains thousands of hand-written gags as well as unique examples of his comedy props. Since 2010, the V&A has been collecting material that helps tell the story of British comedy and we are delighted to welcome the Tommy Cooper Collection as the latest addition to the National Collection of Theatre and Performance,” he said.

The acquisition is the latest in the V&A’s collection of items documenting the lives and careers of comedy figures. It also includes Ronnie Barker, Dame Edna Everage and Morecambe and Wise.

Cooper’s daughter, Vicky Cooper, said her father would have been proud to know he was being represented at the National Collection of Theatre and Performance alongside other comedy icons.

She added: “I hope it brings as much enjoyment to people as he did when he was alive.”

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