Jenny Fewster

AusStage: Australia’s national database of live performance goes global

Jenny Fewster, Drama Department, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia

Ramona Riedzewski, Theatre and Performance Department of the V&A, London

AusStage is the national online resource for live performance research in Australia. It comprises a freely accessible online database, as well as a suite of tools designed to enhance the research potential for scholars, industry and public alike. It currently holds records on over 88,000 performance events, 123,000 contributors, 13,600 organisations, 8,600 venues and 57,000 related articles, books, programs, images, videos and archival items. Development is led by a consortium of universities, government agencies, industry organisations and collecting institutions with funding from the Australian Research Council. AusStage is committed to collecting and sharing information about Australian live performance as a collaborative endeavour.

This presentation examines how AusStage goes about preserving important performing arts data that is not recorded elsewhere and how that data is key to enabling discoverability of items in collections. At present there is no other comparable dataset on Australian performance, and no international database of live performance quite as extensive as AusStage. AusStage provides a common verifiable source of reliable quantitative information for comparative analysis and visualisations that reveal hidden patterns in the data. AusStage enables researchers to compile national and regional surveys of live performance in terms of cultural significance, social participation and economic impact.

Following successful cloning in Norway by IbsenStage, APAC, the Association of Performing Arts Collections (UK & Ireland) has been investigating the possibility of replicating AusStage for the purpose of creating a UK database of performance. APAC intends to collaborate with AusStage to benefit from their expertise, data schema and standards to enable seemless sharing of data between systems. A further objective is to create links to organisational catalogues allowing end-users to locate relevant resources held by organisations across the country. Ultimately the aim is to create a one-stop shop for UK performing arts data and resources in order to overcome the current lack of documentation standards and allow the full discovery of performing arts material held in libraries, archives and museums across the country.

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 $4 million (AUD) in funding from the Australian Research Council and other e-research schemes. Jenny is active in nurturing relationships between university researchers and cultural collections. She is currently the Deputy Chair of the Performing Arts Heritage Network of Museums Australia.

Ramona Riedzewski: Ramona Riedzewski is the Head of Collections Management in the Theatre and Performance Department of the V&A, which holds the UK’s National Collection of the Performing Arts. She is also Treasurer and Membership Secretary of APAC, the Association of Performing Arts Collections (UK and Ireland) and a former Executive Committee member of SIBMAS, the International Association of Performing Arts Collections. As a professionally trained archivist, she worked in a number of different organisations as archivist, records manager and librarian, including Trinity College Library, Dublin; the National Library of Ireland, the Irish Red Cross as well as the Arts Council of Ireland.