Campbell Howard (1906–1984) was born in Ballarat and educated at the Sydney Teachers’ College, New England University College and the University of Melbourne. He held a number of positions in the New South Wales Department of Education. In 1956 he joined the Department of Adult Education at the University of New England. He retired, as Director of the Department, in 1972.
In 1957 Howard was asked to arrange an adult education course on Australian drama. He discovered that while many plays had been written and performed in the decades before Summer of the seventeenth doll, relatively few had been published. He therefore embarked on a project to approach playwrights or their heirs and acquire copies of their plays. He concentrated on the period 1920–55 and sought plays that had been performed by a reputable company, reviewed by a reputable critic or published in a reputable publication. His interest was in unpublished plays, but he occasionally acquired published editions. Most playwrights chose to lend manuscripts and Howard arranged to have typescript copies made. A small number were microfilmed.
Howard received financial support from the National Library and the Dixson Library at the University of New England. Copies of the plays were placed in both libraries.
The first plays were received by the Library in 1959 and by 1964 a total of 165 plays had been received. The influx diminished in the next few years and the last play was received in 1969. In 1985 Ric Throssell gave permission for copies of seven plays by his mother, Katharine Susannah Prichard, to be placed in the Campbell Howard Collection.
The Campbell Howard Collection comprises 197 plays in typescript or manuscript form. In most cases there are multiple copies, resulting in a total of 491 items. Copies of 18 additional plays are held on microfilm.
Among the playwrights represented in the collection are Allan Aldous, Mona Brand, John Le Gay Brereton, Dymphna Cusack, Dulcie Deamer, Henrietta Drake-Brockman, Louis Esson, Oriel Gray, Joan Harvey, Tom Judd, C.R. Jury, Ray Mathew, Gwen Meredith, John O’Grady, Vance Palmer, R.S. Porteous, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Betty Roland, Alan Seymour, Walter Stone, Ric Throssell and Harry Tighe.
The typescript and manuscript plays are kept together at MS 718 in the Manuscripts Collection. A copy of the checklist produced by the University of New England Library in 1968, marked up with the National Library’s holdings, including microfilms, is shelved in the Manuscripts Reading Room. The plays that were microfilmed are held at mfm G 579–83, 6607–9, 6612 and 7691, and can be consulted in the Newspaper Microcopy Room.
The Campbell Howard Collection in the Dixson Library at the University of New England duplicates, but is more extensive than, the National Library collection. The Dixson Library has continued to add scripts of plays to the original collection. In addition, it contains ledgers indexing theatrical productions and performers (1925–33), playbills, correspondence and other personal papers of Howard. A total of 300 plays are listed in Jack Bedson and Julian Croft, compilers of The Campbell Howard annotated index of Australian plays 1920–1955, University of New England, Armidale, 1993.
Maticka, Margaret, The Campbell Howard collection of Australian plays in manuscript, in Australian Drama 1920–1955: Papers Presented to a Conference at the University of New England, Armidale, September 1–4, 1984, University of New England, Armidale, 1986, pp. 115–24.