The Museum of Repertoire American, also known as the Theatre Museum, is home to the Caroline Schaffner Research Library. The Museum was established in 1973 on the grounds of Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers as a dream come true for Caroline and her late husband Neil, the original owners of the Schaffner Players. They had been keeping memorabilia for years on this specialized era of theatrical history and the Theatre Museum made it possible for these items to be saved and many displayed.
Cataloguing the collection by volunteers began as soon as the Schaffner artifacts were brought to the facility. Additional items came at the same time from James V. Davis, who purchased the Schaffner Players in 1964 and continued to perform under that name until his death in 1998. Many more items have been donated to the Museum since 1973 that originally belonged to some of the approximately four hundred tent and stock companies that existed between the 1850s and the 1970s or were found in theatres and opera houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These became part of the displays and the library and are available for viewing and research.
In 1995 work to develop a database that would aid in the recording of the entire collection and that would make it possible to search those records for topics of interest began. Since the collection is so vast and because additional memorabilia is still being donated, work on the database continues.
The purpose of the library, as with the Museum, is to preserve and perpetuate—for educational and historical insights—the heritage, the memorabilia and the culture of tent, folk and repertoire theatre. It also provides a place for literary endeavors and scholarly research.
The materials in the library are stored in acid-free boxes and acid-free folders. Twenty-one file drawers contain 8 ½” x 11” vertical folders covering information on companies and individual show personnel and other pertinent topics. Six legal-size file drawers house additional data. Six file drawers contain material on opera houses (another name for theatres built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.) Four of those drawers contain research material compiled by George Glenn and Richard Poole for their book The Opera Houses of Iowa.
Information on some of the companies is so extensive that their memorabilia is kept in fifteen acid-free boxes.