Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Patrick Lonergan
International Federation for Theatre Research
"The Abbey Theatre Digital Archive"
Warwick, UK
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
In 2012, NUI Galway began a project to digitize the archive of the Abbey Theatre, Irelandís national theatre. When completed in 2016, the resource will host 1.5 million items across a variety of media (promptbooks, videos, photographs, set designs, etc), and will run to approximately 70 TB in size. It includes original material from hundreds of major dramatists and theatre-makers, from the 1890s to the present. Since the beginning of the project, our research group has encountered a variety of interesting challenges relating to such issues as copyright, searching across media, automated redaction processes, etc. The aim of this paper, however, is to consider the impact of this resource on theatre historiography generally. The history of Irish drama is largely considered to be a history of Irish playwrights. There are many reasons for that bias, but one of the most significant is the availability of large documentary archives for the major figures in Irish drama, from W.B. Yeats to Samuel Beckett to Brian Friel, and so on. The excessive focus on text-based histories has tended to skew awareness of Irish theatre history, causing scholars to neglect such prominent figures as actors and directors, as well as stage managers, administrators and, of course, the audience. Interestingly, the focus on text has further skewed attention towards the male-dominated written canon, significantly inhibiting awareness of the contributions of women to Irish theatre. By discussing how the Abbey archive is transforming awareness of the role of women in Irish theatre, this paper seeks to address the conference theme, and to consider how digital technology can allow new kinds of theatre history to emerge. Digital resources make available data about the whole theatre-making process but also allow for new correspondences to be identified, new relationships to be analysed, and for a much broader picture to emerge.
Publication Themes
Humanities in Context