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Performance as Knowledge graphic spacer Wednesday 3 May 2006
The Portico Rooms
Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA

Transcripts – Edit 1

ResCen Seminar: Performance As Knowledge – #5
Access & Dissemination
– CD 3 part 1 of 2

Michelle Harris’ Group


Corone Nane (CN)
Michelle Harris (MH)
Andrew Stewart (AS)
Lois Keidan (LK)
Steve Cleary (SC)
Guy Baxter (GB)
Bex Carrington (BC)
Zoe Lukas (ZL)
Daisy Abbott (DA)
Khairoun Abji (KA)
Mira Kaushik (MK)
Sylvia Morris (SM)
Steve Jupe (SJ)
Rubbina Karruna (RK)
Chandrika Patel (CP)
Wayne McGregor (WMcG)
Kerry Brierley (CB)
Alda Terracciano (AE)

Speakers not identified by name on transcription tape referred to as Man or Woman

Transcriber: Bernice Moore

Length of part 1 of Discussion: 57mins


Woman: Could everyone please start by announcing their names and their organisations, thank you very much, starting with Michelle.

Michelle Harris (MH): My name is Michelle Harris; I’m from Middlesex University and am a [???NMO???] student.

Andrew Stewart (AS): Andrew Stewart. I am the conference reporter.

Lois Keidan (LK): I’m Lois Keidan from the Live Art Development Agency.

Steve Cleary (SC): I’m Steve Cleary, curator of [???] from the National Sound Archive at the British Library.

Guy Baxter (GB): I’m Guy Baxter from the V&A Theatre Museum

Bex Carrington (BC): I’m Bex Carrington, assistant keeper (live art) at the Theatre Collection, University of Bristol.

Zoe Lukas (ZL): I’m Zoe Lukas, I’m the archive assistant at the National Theatre Archive.

Daisy Abbott (DA): I’m Daisy Abbott, performing arts services and outreach officer from the Arts and Humanities Data Service.

Mira Kaushik (MK): My name is Mira Kaushik, artistic director of Akademi South Asian Dance UK, an organisation based in London.

Khairoun Abji (KA): I’m Khairoun Abji from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. I manage a range of activities funded by the Department of Culture.

Sylvia Morris (SM): I’m Sylvia Morris, head of information resources for the Library of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; I also care for the RSC’s company archives.

Steve Jupe (SJ): I’m Steve Jupe from the BBC.

Rubbina Karruna (RK): I’m Rubbina Karruna, also from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport where I am an arts policy adviser.

Chandrika Patel (CP): I am Chandrika Patel, a PhD student at Exeter University.

Alda Terracciano (AT): I’m Alda Terracciano, director of Future Histories and the Archive of African, Caribbean and Asian Performing Arts in the UK.

Kerry Brierley (KB): I’m Kerry Brierley, marketing co-ordinator for Random Dance.

Wayne McGregor (WMcG): I’m Wayne McGregor, choreographer.

LK: I think it would be interesting maybe to define what we mean by ..?.. understanding, not necessarily the words but ..?..

Woman: Not necessarily.

[??LK??]: For me, the issue surrounding access is not just to do with access to resources but with access to information about where those resources might be. I think one thing that’s going to come up for many years, and certainly arose this morning, is this sense of what’s out there really and how it might be accessed. That, for me, is what access is about: in other words, access to information as well as access to the resources themselves. I would say that dissemination concerns the dissemination of information about where things are. Dissemination of the work itself [and for me one of the things that’s very interesting about sort of documentation and archiving is kind of the] sense of an archive as a kind of closed, I don’t want to say dead space, but a closed historical space, [always the idea of the sort of archive in the kind of generative space ..?.. That’s my understanding of ..?.. the area that I’ve ..?..]

Alda Terracciano (AT): These two words have always been fascinating for me because [of their] nuances. In a way, I feel that access has a more passive feel about it, dissemination a more active one. I say this because, with the work we’ve done, we’ve provided access, which means that we make sure collections are preserved and catalogued; therefore, they are made accessible. That’s the first stage, and it’s fantastic that you know the archives are there and that people can look at them. But will they? [This definition of access] is passively active: you’re there, you provide the access, but then one needs the work. Dissemination is about the active movement of reaching out and finding innovative ways to engage people creatively with the process and the end product. What we’ve been trying to do at Future Histories, so far, is to be as true as possible to the nature of the material. If the material is about performing arts or that which is transient and untouchable, then we don’t have the object, we don’t have the painting or the photograph; we have traces of what is left of the banquet, of a wonderful meal or a wonderful encounter. Dissemination needs to reflect that. Access is about those traces, the leftovers of the meal; dissemination for us, so far, has been about the process of creating that banquet, or creating that meal, or creating that feast. That is how we’ve been looking at access and dissemination.

Woman: I would make a slightly different point about what the terms mean. My job is partly about advising people on the creation of digital collections. I think we should also consider the access to services and tools that creators need, as well as accessing the collections themselves. This [is about] dissemination of the fact that a service like ours exists. It is surprising the amount of people who don’t about us, at least it is to me, because I work there.

Guy Baxter (GB): Access to what? Firstly, when we break it down, are we talking about the archives that are sitting under people’s beds or are we talking about archives that are already in some kind of orderly state? [??? and access, are we, if ..?.. when we’re talking about the access, passive access ..?.. or even here’s our catalogue on the web come along and find it. Who, who’s going to find that? ..?.. quality of the server,???] How they will be trained depends on all kinds of practices, [as well as] their social and educational background [???and that’s when you start ..?.. dissemination???] I think it’s very interesting to consider the tools. That’s a really good point, because there are many people here who have a lot to offer to theatre practitioners in terms of how to go about creating archives. Let’s not reinvent the wheel: a lot of people have already got that expertise and are willing to share it. Maybe they already share it but that the news hasn’t got round. We should not confuse “I haven’t heard about this” with “It doesn’t happen”.

Khairoun Abji (MA): When we assess the quality of access on websites in terms of the partners we’re working with, those who are trying to improve access on a particular website, we’re really talking to them about quite practical things: for example, what barriers are preventing people from finding the website? What barriers are there to using a website? If you exchange ‘website’ for ‘resource’ then I think you can get closer to an idea of access that includes such practical things as thinking about how your resource is advertised or marketed; looking at numbers; seeing how widely people view the resource and what community they come from, and whether you need to deepen access to other communities. I see access as a practical issue. Dissemination, on the other hand, which we do less of at Culture Online, is about engaging with people, about how deeply they are using the resource rather than whether they are simply coming to see it; it is, as I think Alda said, about how deeply they are engaging with the resource.

Alda Terracciano (AT): Yes, for example, I realised that many artists from the African and Asian diaspora might not know what was done in the 1970s. If we look at the young generation, perhaps they are unaware that similar issues were treated in plays or dance pieces in the early 1980s. If one is looking at the idea of users, which is part of access, one should not forget that artists are probably the best [of all] users. They are the producers of records but can also be the best users of records. Recently we took a play, which was in one of the archives but had not been produced, so it was in the un-produced scripts folder, and we adapted it for a storyteller. The storyteller and I worked on the play together, looking at its resonances and particular meanings for him; we then worked together on the way he has of telling the story. And so this retelling, this possibility of using the archive as a gold mine for artists themselves – it’s not only the 80s’ fashions which are coming back, you know, it’s ideas, aesthetics and qualities. In considering dissemination, I think one should look at the artist’s role and what role the artist can play in dissemination.

[LK: ???The um ..?.. the eighties did we have a, we don’t call it an archive actually because um, because we don’t, we call it a library and it’s quite ..?.. but it’s, now it’s a very, very er large library probably you know it’s got open access, anybody can use it, so it’s kind of thousands and thousands of ..?.. publications and a whole bunch of other stuff, and what we wanted to do was sort of use it as a kind of, as, as a resource for research no matter ..?.. whether that was scholars, students, artists particularly but also to, to work with closely with artists ..?.. talking about because artists for, for us artists were a kind of absolute kind of unique resource to kind of navigate and negotiate through those materials, so we commissioned um about eight artists on different themes to do sort of study and guides, so for example Franco ..?.. has done a study with ..?.. performers, he’s done a study of ???] materials we have in our archives. It takes the form of an interview with somebody who is talking about the works that influenced him, the work that’s influenced others. And what’s happening, as far as that process is concerned, is that other artists are having their visibility and their profile raised. Historically, somebody doing their PhD or their dissertation on [???body???] performance would probably refer to five or six artists. Through these study guides, users are able to come across artists they might not otherwise have heard of, and those artists then start to be cited in PhDs; those artists start to get creative; to get written into a kind of cannon. [???At the same time they’re also studying ..?.. asking artists who are writing the guides to point out a missions ..?.. to kind of you know if you want this resource to really be effective in a sight specific performance then you need to have this publication, this publication, this publication???]. We’re trying to work very closely with artists, [???how people sort of work their way through the role and also they use, they use the library as a space where artists, and particularly artists who have got ..?.. background to come and talk about their practice, draw on materials and study things about work that’s influenced them and again to point out the gaps, not just in our library but also the gaps in the character, the body of knowledge ..?.. the work in the seventies that has this appeal and they exist in people’s memories and, and have them make sure that that, those memories???]

Woman: It’s a very nice exhibition, as well.

Steve Cleary (SC): Steve Cleary, British Library and the National Sound Archive. I think those ways of presenting [material] are extremely valuable, but [??? access ..?.. the information that exists in the first place???]. At the British Library, we recently hosted a workshop in an attempt to introduce students to the use of archive materials [??? and they were ..?.. to focus on one particular show ..?.. and influence ..?.. press cuttings ..?.. But it’s help in the library ..?.. so I think it’s something that’s very necessary ..?.. and I’ve got that document here ..?.. and it’s called Hidden Treasures and this was er ..?.. museum ..?.. Archives Council about two years ago. You can order all the original archive ..?.. The audio visual archives ..?.. more widely accessible???]

Woman: Well it’s interesting because the Arts Council that I, that we’re looking at sort of collecting, particularly in terms of, in terms of ephemeral practices that ..?.. but a lot of the discussions have come from particular ..?.. in many ways ..?.. felt that the Arts Council should be taking a lead on ..?.. the Arts Council are very heavily involved in sort of archive ..?.. tend to do it in an art form basis rather than on ..?.. national archive ..?..

Man: ..?.. it’s a different thing about people on the Arts Council ..?.. the way the Arts Council works is ..?.. projects ..?.. They are not used to ..?.. and archive ..?.. and so I think there’s a sort of ..?.. sort of the Arts Council’s approach to this which is, which is still ..?.. anyone who’s actually doing the archiving and can say well firstly are you aware that this is not just about, you know you can’t just say we’re going to have an archive as well on this project, we’re going to give three thousand pounds to this ..?.. In a hundred years time they’re still going to be funding it, so I think ..?..


Man: ..?.. how the Arts Council works.

Woman: ..?..

Man: What, in the way that the Heritage um works, I mean because, I mean even the Heritage section ..?.. public, I just, I just worry about the idea that, that um archives is a long term commitment, it’s about national institutions like the British Library ..?.. it’s about, it’s not about um, it’s not like theatre in that way, it’s not like actually funding the arts.

Woman: But the Arts Council ..?.. Building is a long term investment ..?.. The Arts Council build, build ..?.. All I’m just trying to suggest is that, that you know that there needs, there are going to be sort of ..?.. that there needs to be some kind of overview of the information about what is out there and how they can get to, is the digital age ..?.. and who are the organisations, who would be the kind of institutions that ostensibly have that overview or ..?.. the Arts Conncil so it seems that they, for me the sort of logical places to be developing ..?.. this is the overview, these are the ..?.. Chris and I were having a conversation earlier that as soon as you ..?.. archives, anything that’s not ..?.. like a shot saying we’re not going to be doing this so you know the easiest way we can do it is to start doing it.

Man: Well we have started doing it, we’ve got about, I mean there’s a backstage project, collection of, collection and description of performing arts archives ..?.. exists and so if people ..?.. that then

Woman: I’m not talking about the putting things in because there are lots different archives ..?.. and quite right too, but what there doesn’t appear to be is this kind of overview of all the different resources that are out there that people can access.

Daisy Abbott (DA): I would make the point that there’s almost too many of those. Plenty of things try to be that and end up failing: I mean, for example, Backstage. Artefact is a good example, which is supposed to be a sort of one-stop shop for digital archives. The problem is that, in order to access these things, users have to know that they are there in the first place. It’s great if they know about Artefact or Backstage, or if they can find other things to do that job. But they have to know that that thing exists.

LK: We’re now in an age where we can find out whatever we want about anything; if somebody’s interested, all they have to do is type in the word ‘Backstage’ and it should be coming up. If Backstage is not coming up, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with their kind of search facility.

Daisy Abbott (DA): I would contest that, because I think users looking for materials do it on a task-by-task basis; they do it on an item-level basis, and you cannot always find what you’re looking for. If somebody has a research interest, they go to the web to find something, and type it in. They don’t type in ‘generic performing arts collection’; they type in that they want a picture of Patrick Stewart in King Lear from this year. Even if that is held in a database, [it will not necessarily appear in their search].

[???Woman: They can because art, I mean art ..?.. you know all it is is a list on our website and you type in ???]

Daisy Abbott (DA): That is fine if the site has been designed in that way, and sites are beginning to use Google like that. But it takes quite a bit of technical knowledge of the type people do not always have. If you put things in a database without indexing them as web pages, then you Google can’t find them. What I’m saying is, it takes a level of technical knowledge that I would say a lot of people, even those who are creating digital collections, don’t actually posses.

[???Woman: But if we now ..?.. that’s how people are doing their search ..?.. are archives responding to that and are there ..?.. what they have and ..?.. rather than first description would be Patrick Stewart???]

[???GB: ??? This is great if you’ve got it in a digital format ..?.. index. I think you said it was very easy in the age of Google; in fact, it’s not very easy if, if you ???] or if you’ve got a self-indexing archive of ten million theatre programmes, which is just arranged by venue. How do you begin to provide easy access on the web for this?

Steve Jupe (SJ): We’re facing exactly that issue at the BBC, where we’re attempting to put our catalogues online. Our catalogues have been created over the last sixty years. The way in which they were created was designed to fulfil a business purpose. Along comes the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we can instantly turn all of our existing data into something that can be searched by Google. It would not be a useful to spend [a substantial amount of] the licence fee on that particular project. I take the point about using facilities, but you’ve got to remember that those are very, very new search tools. We’re looking at things that have been created over a long period of time, so I totally agree with Guy.

[???Woman: History has let us all down, you know. We’re all having to, you know ..?.. databases, rewrite the history of the ..?.. because we’ve been let down sort of you know they’re under resourced to do it, their knowledge, their whatever, whatever, whatever, and of course so much stuff that’s on kind of card indexes and sort of half of our kind of library is actually paper based, full stop, but if we take today, under Ground Zero, we do now have ..?.. to be able to ???]

??GB or SC??: I think most organisations are taking that approach to their digital material. But, if you’re talking about research, most people don’t [want to begin with today or tomorrow]; they want stuff that’s forty or fifty years old. I think we have got to balance the expectations of what we’re trying to do, if we’re talking about public access and dissemination, with taking it back a stage and saying, “Well, this is what we’ve got, what can we do with it?”, rather than trying to have some kind of Shangri-La Utopia. [???of, of where we could be, um because that’s what we can move forward to going forward and that’s what a lot of organisations are, but I mean???]

Woman: But maybe if we’d had the Shangri-La Utopia fifty years ago, we wouldn’t need to be sitting here all talking [about access and dissemination now.]

Steve Jupe (SJ): I think you can only go with what the business requirements were at a particular time. A lot of archives fulfilled the business requirement of that time. Archives generally don’t exist in their own right; they are parasite organisations, they exist to fulfil the business requirements of the organisation they support. That’s all they can ever do; if you come along, place another set of requirements on them and say you have now got this responsibility to respond to the public, those are completely new business requirements on archives. You cannot respond retrospectively and suddenly turn everything around and rework it.

Woman: So, do we need another organisation that has that responsibility? Is something else needed? Whose responsibility is it?

Alda Terracciano (AT): I think it’s important to share what the latest programme has been in this area, because Access to the Archives programme has been really massive. They have done a retro-conversion of catalogues. The British Library, National Archives and the Manuscript Commission were aware of archives with catalogues which were not able to be disseminated in the digital age as they should. Government has put lots of money into this and the National Archives have done massive work. They have retro-converted or catalogued for the first time around 80,000 catalogues and these have been put online. The question was about searching for this or that performance, at item-level. In cataloguing one goes through various stages, and there is a hierarchy. That’s something I learnt from the archivists after working on a number of projects. To get to the lower level, which is the item level, is a massive endeavour. We’re talking of designing the old collection, what are we going to select at item level. Do we provide an item-level description for a certain number of items, because it can’t be done for everything? Why cannot the access to archives programme be repeated for the performing arts? They have done insurance companies and all sorts of archives. The website is amazing, quite amazing. Records of organisations could be made available through this website on an international level. What I’m wondering is, since they’ve put in place a programme which has received massive funds from Government, why not simply decide here today that the performing arts need to be served in a similar way. [???We did it on a personal, an individual organisational level, at Future Histories, because we were working in partnership with the National Archives, so now our catalogues are on the ..?.. website, um but this could be done for your sector, or maybe learning from that model and putting a bid, a consortium of archives, of institutions, of you know er corporations, etcetera, and small archives etcetera, and doing something which is similar to that???] Then you have a search engine, which allows people to do research online. We are thinking and talking about [???]. But I think there are models already there and things that have been done; it’s a question of deciding if the performing arts needs to do the same thing or not.

Daisy Abbott (DA): And get ten million quid to do it.

Alda Terracciano (AT): Precisely. And if that is not possible, then what could be done? Is [???Backstage???] a valid tool?

Guy Baxter (GB): Yes, it is a valid tool. I agree with what you’re saying. One of the problems is that A to A is about archive catalogues that are already in a certain format; in other words, they’ve had an archivist look at them in the past. These insurance companies, for example, have produced archives that collected by local authority record offices in the 1950s, someone has gone through the archive and now they want it to be digitised. Our challenge isn’t quite like that [???and so they’ve probably got un-catalogued archives ..?.. so that all these institutions have got un-catalogued archives as we have???] So, it’s a tool. The other tools, the tools we need, of course, are about getting access to video material. If you’re the Dorset Record Office and have an insurance company archive, you’re not going to have a whole load of audio and video tapes. [??? The other thing, and this is, um we’re doing something at the moment through ..?.. which has been funded by the V&A ..?.. ???] subject specialist network programme, which is to create a database, or at least a nationally agreed standard for performing arts and event and the production of records; in other words, where it was it done, what was being done and when. This is something that we desperately need to try to draw together all the arts collections [???and is that how we draw them together is through that kind of event database???] That has been good; we’re really pleased at how they’ve [???] That’s another sort of tool that we need in order to get performing arts into the digital age and establish an accessible catalogue world. [???it’s not kind of A to A was an easy win, you know, they had the catalogues already there and all we have to do is go to the highlights ..?.. National Archives did them, or they have to, or you have to go and try for a planning bid, I mean you’ve got, you’ve been incredibly successful at getting money bids which we’re very envious of but it’s also we can start looking at that widely that ???]

Alda Terracciano (AT): I think you are right, but in the performing arts we’re more interested in specific items rather than the old hierarchy of the catalogues. If we’re more interested in audio visual content, then one should use that as a model and [see how A for A won their bid]. That was a big bid which they won. How could that work for our own needs for the sector? When I had to do the Future Histories website, I had no interest in repeating what the National Archives had done; of course, I was delighted that the dry catalogue was on their website for academic researchers wanting to know what material was available. For the Future Histories website, I was more interested in selecting items together with the archivists items, and in which items and why those items, and in items that could reveal the [creative] process. For example, by digitising the drawings for a poster and then the poster itself, people are able to see the passage between the creative process of people sitting around a table, deciding that they I like a particular draft, and the final product. These were the criteria which we adopted in deciding how we would make our website. This is obviously just the beginning and it has been done with very little money and big passion. Maybe we already know the needs of our sector and the essence of the work with which we deal, and can come out with something that reflects the sector and still use a successful model [such as that developed for] A to A.

Steve Cleary (SC): [???I know what I find most, Steve Cleary, I know what I find the most useful um ..?.. to a directory which existed er as a kind of market ..?.. you have a documentation categorising various ways ..?.. problematic, it’s doable ..?.. or where these things are, because I mean I can imagine somebody ..?.. immediately, there’s a list of materials available, I mean that’s ..?.. need. Um I work for the British Library ..?.. literature ..?.. material ???]

Woman: So, a type of signposted thing?

Steve Cleary (SC): [???Yes, and then lots of ???]

Woman: Most people’s websites presumably refer to other related resources and so on. Does the Future Histories website [direct people to other resources?]

Alda Terracciano (AT): Yes, that’s what we will be doing. We have set up and now and will link up with [as many other web resources] as possible.

Woman: I think part of the responsibility is for us to make sure that we are fronting [that information and widely disseminating it].

Daisy Abbott (DA): I think that’s currently the way that most users find out about things. The remember the [online] resources they perceive to be the most valuable and return to them. But even somebody who works in the industry, if you like, of digital performing arts records the number of [resources] out there is overwhelming. It’s so time consuming to follow a link, do the search with different search terms, try it again, give up, go to the next one, and keep repeating these searches. It’s quite idealistic in some ways, but I think that a centralised item-level description catalogue would be fantastic. People could return there every time, and it wouldn’t matter if the video they were looking for was not online because at least they would know where to get t, or that it is available through the BBC’s website or the British Library’s website. I would say, however, that such a site would have to be extremely robust, because we can’t predict [??use-case???] scenarios. Somebody might go to it wanting a picture of one actor from multiple productions; somebody else might be looking at one production and the differences between them. Those are simple examples, but people from all sorts of disciplines use performing arts materials like […???] anthropologists, and we can’t always predict what people are going to use them for. A [gateway site] would have to be fairly generic, very robust and not make any assumptions about why people visit it.

Andrew Stewart (AS): I’m sure this is going to be politically sensitive, but it relates back to what Steve Cleary said about a search engine or a vehicle, if you like for accessing information dedicated to performing arts. Well, of course, if you were to start building that from scratch it would be a very costly and time-consuming business. Google does exist and, like it or not, they’re putting a great deal of effort into digitising the word, particularly in terms of manuscript archives and books. It strikes me that there is a possibility of dealing with Google in a way that could be of great value to what we have been discussing. What you could end up with are lots of very good but very difficult to find search engines. However, most people are going to begin looking for things on Google before they actually think, “Oh yes, there’s a performing arts search engine called Backstage”. I wonder to what extent, from a funding point of view, talking to Google would be possible and, indeed, profitable for the organisations here.

Woman: Google is constantly developing and trialing Google search passages, there’s no reason why we couldn’t use Google. [???Just going back to the point of this morning, this is about performing arts archiving but I do think, you know I would like to see a kind of an arrangement of ..?.. kind of legacy and, and, and certainly the area that I work in there are artists that don’t see it ..?.. either in ..?.. performing arts or within the visual arts where they ..?.. quite a few ResCen artists are themselves you know kind of ..?.. really you know much closer ..?.. for example, so I think it’s important that you know that, that there is um a very ..?.. and possibly one that doesn’t ..?.. But I can’t see any reason why Google couldn’t be approached, I mean it’s ???]

Daisy Abbott (DA): Again, let’s not confuse digital records with records.

Man: [??? doing its best to make existing records, card indexes and whatever] The idea is to turn them all in to digital [records]. In that respect, there’s already a critical mass going in [that] direction.

Woman: I don’t think the suggestion is that everything should be digitised; rather, digital technologies have to keep searching and finding out information. There is nothing new in suggesting that card indexes should be digitised, but we do have the technology now to find out things, to find out what they are and where they are, and that’s where we should be [??? search engine seems to be going in this direction ???]

Alda Terracciano (AT): But the problem is who is paying for that. Digitising is basically very expensive in terms of the time.

Woman: [???Talking about digital technology to find out things???]

Alda Terracciano (AT): [???Ah yeah okay because I think that’s also important to make???]

??LK??: If I can see my new terrace on Google Earth, then I should be able to find out where that information about the [???] is.

Guy Baxter (GB): [???I also don’t think this is about card indexes because I mean I just ..?.. the examples of the ones that we’ve got um and I know other performing arts archives have and they’re not, they’re not ..?.. at the end, they haven’t digitised because that is, that is, they are ..?.. um and it’s not, I don’t think it’s to do, you know I’ve got a, I’ll give you an example, we’ve got a card index which occupies forty drawers, which is um ..?.. in the UK on which ..?.. programme. Um now ..?.. holds the programme for every professional production in the UK going back to 1704. That’s a lot of information, and that’s a completely lost collection, it’s one of the biggest ..?.. in the world and it’s almost completely lost because it’s down to that individual entries on those cards is actually what really matters, or Hamlet was done there on that date. Um the, the index to finished products which I don’t think should be digitalised necessarily but which you could argue for which is the ..?.. or programme, and if you’re looking at the actual people then you have to digitise that if you want to search by, I’m searching for things that Judy Dench was in then you’re talking about indexing the actual programme itself. So I think it is actually an enormous job, it’s not a kind of a, I can’t, I can’t give you a list of the actors on whom we have material because it, it’s like millions, it’s just too much, and that’s why we have approached it in this ..?.., because that is somewhere where you can. Our experience for however many years ..?.. going is that people search by production. Um yes they search for a person, um which is very much a visual arts approach, um yes they search by work but they quite often search by production ..?.. and dance actually tends to be much more work on the production, how it was designed doesn’t really matter much, it doesn’t change as much so dance is ..?.. But that’s why I’ve gone with that approach because that’s the way of getting massive amounts of, that’s a, a pot in to which you put a lot of information and I think it’s the only place we have, the only way we can approach it is to try to get those ..?.. indexed information somehow out there. You can’t stop, you can’t say oh they’re not going to be ..?. we’ll just, just tell you, ..?.. have got a card catalogue ???]

Woman: But it’s a step on the road.

GB: That information is out there and there comes a point where you have to say if people don’t know that the British Library exists then it starts [to get a bit silly]. How far do we go? Let me disseminate the fact that the British Library or the V&A Museum exists; surely, that’s not what we’re talking about here, is it? People either know that if they’re doing serious research then [???certainly find that out ..?.. online???]

Sylvia Morris (SM): What the Theatre Information Group (TIG) is going to be doing on this [???] research database will be flattering towards other collections [???where you might find that information, because it has already been indexed at a lower level, or a higher level, I don’t know which why it is, so you’re, you will be pushing people towards the more detailed resources where you can find out ..?.. and as you say the National Theatre and ourselves are using the same system???].

Man: The Theatre Collection in Bristol has its own system. The idea is to bring these together and create a kind of central index which says, if you’re looking at that Richard Burton Hamlet or if you’re looking at whatever it may be, it will tell you where it was done, that these are the resources that relate to it, and that this is your item level [??? of the performing arts, distributing ..?.. all together by this index, um so it then says well actually you know the programme is held by obviously an archive ..?.. museum and there’s also a copy in our Bristol branch???]

Daisy Abbott (DA): It has to be very robust because of all the cross selections.

Man: Yes that’s the beauty of it. We’re not going about this in a half-hearted way, because it has to work; it has to work really well, whatever the system.

Man: [???Um what we call the self expressionist network for performing arts ..?.. the UK Office of the Library Network which is kind of, I suppose if you’re going to get anyone to agree to how this is the standard for describing data???]

Alda Terracciano (AT): I think the directory idea is probably the best starting point in that one could actually have a listing somewhere of all the repositories.

Man: I’m sorry – that’s Backstage!

Alda Terracciano (AT): But apart from Backstage - I know Backstage, but I’m saying [???you know what is the contents as well. What’s the content, so that people can start looking at the value of things as well and what they, where they can go to find certain kind of information and starting feeling with some more probably, that could really help???]

Man: I can put these things into Backstage. It exists as a place where performing arts collections and the description of performing arts is presented, but I can’t make people put their information in.

Alda Terracciano (AT): I know, but you probably could be more proactive in asking for that information, that’s what I’m saying. I know that the template is there with Backstage, but perhaps it’s a question of trying to get more people involved with that project. I think it is wonderful that Backstage has been created, but I think it is a little bit like the difference between access and dissemination, [with the latter requiring a more proactive approach]. I know it requires energy, investment and all the rest of it, and I know that it’s all a question of you how much work one can do, but….

Zoe Lukas (ZL): [???But ..?.. not just a matter of this higher body, it disseminates ..?.. that thing,???] At the National Theatre Archive, we have leaflets, we tell people about it, but we don’t go out, singing and dancing, to tell people about it. Whenever I speak to people I try [???and mention it but it’s not necessary that it’s there, I think every archive has the responsibility to do that as long as it knows about it, it’s that groundswell of you know that’s where it comes from. If you’re the first port of call for students and they do not know what they’ve got to do they may say oh ..?.. production at the National Theatre, it’s for the archivist and assistants to say that to whoever, it’s not just for me ..?.. I think it’s very important that everyone ..?.. and doesn’t necessarily, I’m not saying that anyone’s passing the buck but everyone does take ownership of it, does have some part to play???]

Man: [???…Backstage ..?.. market leader earlier and I think something like that is ..?.. people like me as well as people using archive material???]

Woman: [???Absolutely I’m sure it’s the same ..?.. inappropriate ignorance and ..?.. substantial ..?.. resources on a daily basis and also a substantial number of um ongoing kind of interviews or information by ..?.. archive???]

Woman: [??? worried about the stage ..?.. I’ve been working in ..?.. for a couple of years and I, I’m ..?.. trying to get it’s updated to ..?.. situation, which is a whole different ballgame ..?.. all this stuff???].

Man: I have been arguing for Backstage and am probably the worse person to do it, because I know it’s fraught with problems. [??? three hundred special effects ..?.. database. We couldn’t get funding because of the Higher Education sector which was funding it ..?.. I’m going to knock it now, um would not fund us even though we’re the National Museum of Performing Arts, they would not fund our collections being put on to it and we had to go to the British Library partnership funding in order to be included, so you know you’ve ended up with ???] The fact that Backstage happened should be applauded. because it was a big struggle to get a national collection of description projects for the performing arts. But if people haven’t been included in that, it’s either the fault of the project [??? or because they haven’t found out about it???]. This doesn’t mean, however, that we need to be reinventing Backstage. [??? we need, maybe we do need to, we need to push it the information on what people know about it but that’s all we need to do and not kind of ..?..]

Alda Terracciano (AT): I think that is important. Again it’s a question of dissemination of information. We have to be aware that we are bombarded with information all the time, that there are constant innovations. People run businesses and companies, so we constantly deal with lots of things [???and that’s what I am becoming more and more aware of myself, so that’s why I’m saying one needs to be, although we would all like to think okay I’m there, why people don’t see me, it might be that because there is a huge crowd people don’t see us???]

Woman: It might mean that they were looking for you and found somebody else instead.

Alda Terracciano (AT): Precisely, and that they were distracted. [???But I think this, this er this proactive thing, that’s why I think you know access, dissemination, these nuances again, um???] I also think that it’s the responsibility for institutions to begin tackling the old question of ownership. In its way Backstage and initiatives like [???]appeal to institutions, to big organisations. Now what about the small fish? What about those who have resources, who have archives, who have material and have been working in communities, but who have not felt included so far? What about who haven’t really been able to build trust with institutions over the last decades? I think one needs to look in to that, and at how we can [build bridges] and what needs to be done to do that. I think this is something to think creatively about.


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