Vale Frank Van Straten

Vale Frank Van Straten

Theatre Historian Frank Van Straten has died at the age of 87, leaving behind a legacy of spectacular coffee table books, program and CD cover notes, while he will also be remembered as the pioneer of Australia’s largest collection of performance memorabilia.

Fellow historian Peter Pinne says, “I have lost a friend. More importantly the arts industry has lost one of its most important archivists.

“He will long be remembered for contributions to the theatre in Australia.

“Frank was the first archivist of the Performing Arts Museum in Melbourne which is now called the Australian Performing Arts Collection – housing 700,000 different items.

“They were originally housed in a portable room that was attached to the Arts Centre. He started contacting people and collecting programs and theatre memorabilia.”

The Arts Centre in Melbourne credits Frank as having “done more than any other individual to seed (our) rich collection and secure its longevity.”

Since 2020 an annual fellowship of $15,000 has been made available for research connected to the collection supported by the The Van Straten and Turley Foundation.

Details of the Frank Van Straten fellowship can be found here.

Frank was born in 1936 in London, the son of a popular musician and band leader Leon Van Straten, described by historian Geoffrey Orr as “a talented man, who together with his two brothers played ‘hot’ dance music for royalty, wealthy patrons and the general public in London, New York and Melbourne.”

For many years he researched and presented ABC Local radio’s Nostalgia segment, broadcast on Melbourne’s 774 and the ABC Victorian Regional Network.

He acted as the Historical Consultant for Graeme Murphy's dance musical TIVOLI, and given his vast knowledge, has accepted invitations to contribute information to considerable books, speeches, biographies, performances and exhibitions.

In recognition of his services to the performing arts in Australia, Van Straten was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and later a further honour when he was awarded an AM.

Frank continued to write articles for the Theatre Heritage website. His last article was published just last month on the life of Frank Neil.

Frank is survived by his partner of 50 years Adrian Turley.

Last year the couple announced that they were donating $350,000 for a gate at Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens.

Frank's books.