Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Opening the Digitised History of Ireland's National Theatre

A new era of theatre scholarship is now accessible at the James Hardiman Library. 'A Digital Journey Through Irish Theatre', which was launched in October 2012 by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, records the digitised archive of the Abbey Theatre, the national theatre of Ireland.

Containing over 1.8 million items in total, it is the largest theatre archive digitisation project ever undertaken in the world. The archive pre-dates the foundation of the Abbey Theatre itself, including material relating to productions by W.B. Yeats in 1894.

The rolling 3-year project has now successfully completed phase 1 and the first tranche of material is now released to users of the archive. Material included in this first release includes historic programmes of productions, set designs and related assorted production records including scripts and correspondence.
The digitisation project will allow for pioneering advances in the study of theatre, drama and society. As well as providing a documented record of a play, the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive will include a vast range of multi-media records, including nearly 1,500 hours of recordings of productions from over 430 productions.

The archive material will be exclusively available on designated computer terminals in the new Archives and Special Collections reading room of the Hardiman Building, located on the ground floor of the new extension, at the heart of campus at NUI Galway.

The archive compliments a leading research strength in theatre, performing arts and humanities scholarship within the University, with allied catalogued archival collections at the Hardiman Library including the papers of Druid Theatre Company, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, The Lyric Players Theatre/O'Malley family, Belfast, The Galway Arts Festival archive and papers of individuals such as playwright Thomas Kilroy and actors Siobhan McKenna and Arthur Shields.

Dr Jim Browne, President, NUI Galway, Fiach MacConghail, Artistic Director, Abbey Theatre, President Michael D. Higgins, his wife Sabina.
The project will ensure that over 130 years of Irish theatre, history, culture and society will remain preserved and accessible for future generations.

The Abbey Theatre Digital Archive is accessible to all students and staff of the University and to external scholars and students. Stay tuned for updates for additions of new material to the archive throughout the course of the project. For more on access and conditions of the use of the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive please contact the Archives and Special Collections team by email:

RTE News coverage of the launch of the Abbey Theatre Digitisation Project, October 2012, can also be viewed by clicking here.

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