In this special forum, three respondents consider Richard Schoch's provocation about what he considers the insufficiently reflective use of archives by nineteenth-century theatre scholars: 'It is a great vexation to me that historians of nineteenth-century theatre do not reflect sufficiently upon the status of the archives in which they work. There is not enough attention to what counts as evidence or documentation, who was (is) responsible for its survival and preservation, how archives shape our understanding of theatre history by making certain questions possible and other ones impossible. Our very idea of the theatrical past is determined by the more or less invisible structures of archives, in which H. Irving is much more visible than J. Grimaldi.'