TLA Symposium I Agenda

Performance Documentation and Preservation in an Online Environment

Final Report

Theatre Library Association held its Symposium on October 10, 2003 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.  We believe this was the first conference ever dedicated to documentation of performing arts resources in a virtual environment.  Generous funding from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Shubert Foundation helped make our Symposium truly international in scope, facilitating honoraria and travel stipends for illustrious practitioners from the British Isles.

Over 127 individuals attended the Symposium, including archivists, curators, educators, librarians, practitioners, scholars, and students.  Our intent, in part, was to facilitate a sophisticated dialogue on performing arts documentation and preservation issues between theatre practitioners and representatives from the museum world, who presented several innovative models for capturing installation and new media works.  Eighteen months in the planning, response to the Symposium was overwhelmingly positive.  Registrants found it stimulating and thought-provoking – several commented it was the best conference they had attended in years.

Linda Tadic of ARTstor was the Keynote speaker, who got us off to an energetic start by discussing misconceptions and challenges of digital preservation projects.  She also succinctly framed the major themes of the day.  The morning panel, Performing Arts Online, featured presentations from Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre, an online performance company; Global Performing Arts Consortium, an ambitious database featuring visual images and streaming video from international companies and repositories in Japan, Malaysia, and Russia; and Virtual Vaudeville, David Saltz’s fascinating reconstruction of vaudeville routines, contextualized in historic theatres with representative audience members.

The afternoon panel, Virtually Across the Pond, introduced our guests from the United Kingdom:  Catherine Owen of Performing Arts Data Service, in an informative talk on the challenges of sustaining projects with short-term funding; Barry Smith’s evocative filmed documentation of the wild avant garde performance scene in London; and Hugh Denard’s Theatron, captivating three-dimensional reconstructions of ancient Greek theatres based on archeological evidence. 

The final panel, Digital Preservation:  Paradigms and Partnerships, concentrated on visual arts approaches to documenting and preserving performance.  Richard Rinehart of Berkeley Art Museum spoke about interpretation questions when “restaging” temporal or digital-based art, and Jon Ippolito of the Guggenheim Museum presented the Variable Media Network, in which artists submit detailed instructions for future representations of their work.  Howard Besser of New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program offered remarks on the instability of the digital medium, with recommended approaches for saving information.  Ann Doyle of Internet2 concluded the afternoon with an exciting demonstration of simultaneous, multi-site performance venues.

Theatre Library Association constructed a comprehensive website, both to market the Symposium, as well as to include synopses and presentation slides.  Responding to the overall theme of documentation, we are presently collecting Symposium Proceedings, which will be published in our occasional journal, Performing Arts Resources, sometime in 2004.

Additional objectives of the Symposium were to produce another independent conference for Theatre Library Association, enhance visibility of the organization, increase membership, and reach out to a broader performing arts constituency.  Given the enthusiastic response of the audience – as well as support from Executive Board members, many of whom had little exposure to these cutting-edge issues – we can feel justifiably proud of producing this landmark event at Lincoln Center. 

Kenneth Schlesinger,Symposium Co-Chair

To view the program agenda, click here.

This Theatre Library Association Symposium was made possible through the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Shubert Foundation.

Drama, Dance, Music, Film

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