Jenny Fewster & Ramona Riedzewski

The Use of Virtual Gallery Spaces to Showcase Items in Geographically Dispersed Performing Arts Collections

Jenny Fewster & Ramona Riedzewski: Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, & Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Performance is an artform that is not confined by boundaries, either geographic or linguistic Performers and performing arts companies are, by nature, itinerant, prone to travelling well beyond borders. Likewise the material traces of performance and performers is widely distributed. Material can be discovered in collections great distances from where it, or the performance or performer it describes, originated. The dispersed nature of performing arts heritage has meant that undertaking performing arts research with anything like a national, not to mention international scope, has been costly, time-
consuming and difficult.

AusStage, the Australian performance database has been working with collections and through its resource table supports discovery and access to items in collections in various ways by: associating collection and item descriptions with AusStage records on people, venues, organizations, works, genres and productions; Directing users to item records,collection descriptions and finding aids in online catalogues and collection websites;Linking users directly to digitised resources (text, pictures, sound, moving image) in digital archives and online repositories; Hosting item-level cataloguing for smaller collections seeking to integrate their resources within the national database. As a result, AusStage provides improved opportunities for research and education, and increased visibility for libraries, museums, archives and documentation centres of the performing arts.

This presentation will explore new AusStage functionality which aims to further increase visibility of objects in libraries, museums, archives and documentation centres of the performing arts. AusStage is developing an exhibition zone on the AusStage website for researchers and collections to curate resources, collections and datasets from the database. AusStage currently displays thumbnail graphics associated with visual resources. New functionality will provide researchers with an interface to integrate the visual records into exhibits, with features that include selection, sequencing and arrangement captioning, links to data records, and interpretative text. The custodianship of the digital resources will remain with the collections. AusStage will use technology to draw theimages from archives and collections digital repository for display in the gallery spaces in AusStage. Users requiring more information will be directed back to the Archive or Collection that houses the object.

A second development will be a text-based staging platform which will allow archives, collections, libraries, venue managers, theatre companies, artists, and the public to upload or provide a link to digitised playbills, cast lists and programmes. Interested parties can transcribe this data as free text. The entries will be moderated, with links created to other records, before being saved to the database. In addition a record in the Resource table will be created indicating the existence of the playbill and in which Collection it can be found.


Jenny Fewster
Jenny began working on performing arts databases in the early 90’s in her role as Research Assistant at the Performing Arts Collection of South Australia. She joined AusStage, the Australian national online resource for live performance research, when the project began in 2000 and was appointed Project Manager in 2003. During her time with AusStage the project has been successful in gaining over $5 million (AUD) in funding from the Australian Research Council, Australian National Data Service, National eResearch Architecture Taskforce, eResearch South Australia and the Australian Access Federation. Jenny is active in nurturing relationships between university researchers and cultural collections. She is currently the Deputy Chair and Secretary of the Performing Arts Heritage Network of Museums Australia and has served on that Committee for the last ten years.

Ramona Riedzewski
After studying music at Trinity College Dublin, Ramona joined the Arnold Schoenberg Center Archive in Vienna. Following her professional qualification from University College Dublin, she held a number of positions in Ireland, including the Irish Red Cross (Digital Archivist), Arts Council (Records Management Consultant), National Library of Ireland (Music Librarian) and Trinity College Library Dublin (LMS Implementation Manager). In 2009, Ramona became the Archivist and later Head of Collections Management in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Department. She is an Executive Committee Member of APAC, the UK’s Subject Specialist Network for Performing Arts Collections and formerly Ex-Com member of SIBMAS, the international parent body of APAC.