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The National Theatre Costume Centre (CNCS) is the first structure, in France and abroad, to be entirely devoted to stage costumes and scenery. It aims to conserve, study and promote a heritage of 10,000 theatre, opera and ballet costumes as well as several elements of stage machinery and scenery. The CNCS occupies part of the Villars district, the former cavalry quarter dating back to the end of the 18th Century, and is a listed historical monument.
The National Theatre Costume Centre has been established in the Villars district since June 2006.
The building, a listed historical monument, is at the centre of a vast ensemble of buildings established on a site of around four hectares on the edge of the Allier River. The CNCS conserves a prestigious collection of 10,000 stage costumes offered by three major institutions: the National Library of France, the Comédie-Française and the Paris Opera, or belonging to the CNCS via donations from the Nureyev Foundation, theatre costume makers (Christian Lacroix, Frank Sorbier), theatre companies (les Carnets Bagouet, Régine Chopinot, Jean-Marie Villégier, Odile Duboc), or stage performers or their families (Jacqueline François, Régine Crespin).
The architectural restoration led as part of the French state funding for Historical Monuments is completed by a facility realised by Jean-Michel Wilmotte and the ensemble offers conservation areas in specific storage reserves, 1000 square metres of temporary exhibition halls with the display space laid out like mini theatre stages, a documentation centre and a textile restoration workshop.
A permanent exhibition devoted to Rudolf Nureyev opened in 2013.
Two main costume exhibitions are programmed each year, showing off the wealth of the collections according to different thematic presentations. The documentation accompanying these costumes (sketches, photographs of the stages and the performers, programmes, booklets, etc.) complete the tribute to the prestigious shows in which these costumes played their part.
Each exhibition at the CNCS has educational workshops designed to promote professions linked to the performing arts. These activities are organised during the school year or holidays.