The importance of place: clearly identifying and disambiguating sites of performance in data sets for theatre research

Jennifer Fewster

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    Venue (location, site, building) is a crucial factor in live performance, significant in shaping and expressing artists’ creativity as well as audience response. However, for theatre researchers and data custodians for the digital humanities adequately describing venues, or sites of performance, can be problematic. Whilst for the most part venues tend to stay in one place, their names and their physical construction can be quite volatile and subject to frequent changes. Over the years, a given place may be the site of a series of theatre buildings and even buildings which persist for many years may be given different names at different times. Similarly venue names are frequently re-used in different locations. This presentation explores these issues in relation to venue records in performance related data sets. In disambiguating venue records we need to take into account venue names, place names, locations designated by street address and geographic coordinates. We also need to consider the date range of events, and even look at the frequency of associated contributors and organisations. We also need to examine how to distinguish the identity of venues in disparate databases. Existing library authority services will not take us very far in providing standardized identification. The Virtual International Authority File collates geographic names, mostly the names of countries, states, regions, cities and suburbs. A similar service is provided by the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names and by national Gazetteers in Australia, the UK and the US. All of these services cover place names and do not provide enough granularity for our purposes. To remedy this AusStage has been working with the National Library of Australia and the Association of Performing Arts Collections (UK) to develop Venue Authority Files for Australia and the UK. This presentation will explore some of the issues these pilot projects have encountered.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
    EventIFTR 2016: Presenting the Theatrical Past. Interplays of Artefacts, Discourses and Practices - Stockholm, Sweden
    Duration: 13 Jun 201617 Jun 2016


    ConferenceIFTR 2016
    Abbreviated titleIFTR 2016
    OtherThe conference “Presenting the Theatrical Past” addresses questions concerning our relationship to theatre history, i.e. the relation between present and past. How and why do we deal with history? What do we do with history? To what extent is historical research an exploration of our present? Critical investigation of historiographical issues in the field of Theatre Studies touches upon the interplay between theatrical artefacts, practices and discourses. Such historical artefacts in relation to theatre can be theatre sites/venues, historical objects (props, scenery, costumes), archival materials and documents, historical locations for re-enactments, etc. Practices comprise performances such as theatre, drama, dance, opera, performance, installation art, laboratory experiments, educational curricula etc. The notion of discourse relates to historical ideas as well as contemporary theories, questions of ‘historically informed productions’ (HIP) and historiographical concepts, reconstructions of past performances etc.


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