November 3, 2017, by Erin Snyder
Arts Impact: Our Theatre Royal Nottingham
The Digital Research Team has been supporting a collaborative research project run by Jo Robinson in the School of English and Laura Carletti from Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute to enable the Theatre Royal Nottingham to research, curate and share their history through a digital archive.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant to the Theatre for a two year project from February 2017, through which nearly 70 volunteers from across the city are currently engaged in collecting, cataloguing and contributing archive material and oral histories focussed on four key themes: Building a Theatre; The Theatre Royal in Wartime; Pantomime; and Onstage and Backstage: the social history behind the theatre’s heritage. The volunteers acquire new skills through training from the University of Nottingham and East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA). They are also helping design and curate a digital archive platform. Here the aim is to create an easily accessible forum for engaging with the venue’s heritage, through which users can explore the multiplicity of narratives which weave together to tell the story of over 150 years of the Theatre’s life in Nottingham.
Working with Klokan Technologies and with the help of Ben Bedwell from the Mixed Reality Lab, we have developed a site based on the Omeka open-source platform that will enable both images – of playbills, photographs, programmes, tickets and newspaper reviews and correspondence – and audio and video files to be linked to our themes, and more locally to other relevant images and objects to build up a network of heritage stories accessible to audiences everywhere. Co-ordinating the different strands of research – and the activities of our many volunteers – is a key challenge, and we are currently working to fine-tune systems for consistent recording and uploading of their research. Sharing the development of the site in its early stages has been key to understanding the kinds of information that will best work with our desire for a story-based approach.
We are also exploring the capabilities of the site to support wider research, with the Digital Research Team funding an expansion of the platform to enable volunteer transcription of complex images such as nineteenth-century playbills, postcards and the visitors’ book from a local theatrical lodging house. And a final challenge – posed by our volunteers – is how to find ways to make the resource usable and interactive for ‘offline’ visitors to the Theatre – so further blogs will no doubt follow!
Header image: website under development