Endangered archives blog

27 August 2010

University of East London Archive Discussion

Last Tuesday Lynda and I attended a group discussion hosted by the East London Theatre Archives Project (ELTA). The group consisted of fellow archivists and theatre practitioners engaged with theatre archive projects. Over the course of a few hours we had the opportunity to test their new online resource created as part of a JISC funded project and to discuss issues relating to Archives, archiving and performance and theatre documentation.

Some interesting points were raised in discussion. We were thrown into the deep end with the first question: what exactly is an archive (Archive)? After a few minutes it became apparent that everyone present had a broad view of what could constitute an archive and what records and objects were archive worthy. The EAP takes a broad line on this too. A glance at our projects and collections shows that we have digitised trade union records, video footage of ritual narration and performance, the photographic collection held at a Buddhist monastery and rock art. This last project includes navigatable 3D models.

The discussion covered topics such as the definition and nature of ephemera, the difficulties in finding common ground and shared meaning within multiple definitions of key archival ideas such as context and provenance, and research in the online environment. To round off the discussion we turned to a question which the theatre and archive communities are starting to address and explore: if (as famously noted by Peggy Phelan) performance "becomes itself through disappearance", how do you document and archive performance?



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