Dublin’s Abbey to digitise theatre archive

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Ireland’s national theatre company, the Dublin-based Abbey Theatre, has announced a partnership with the National University of Ireland Galway to make its historic 109-year-old archive available online in what organisers claim will be “undoubtedly the biggest digital theatre archive in the world”.

The project, A Digital Journey Through Irish Theatre History, aims to make all 1.8 million items of rare programmes, posters, images and other material, including board meeting minutes, lighting plans, set and costume designs, sound cues, prompt scripts and audio files, publicly accessible by 2016. Initially, exclusive access will be prioritised for Abbey staff, theatre students and visiting scholars.

The earliest item in the archive, a publicity poster for the first production of Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire, which was seen in London’s Avenue Theatre in 1894, pre-dates the Abbey’s founding in 1903 by WB Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory by almost a decade.

NUI Galway president Dr Jim Browne said: “This digitisation project is based on an awareness of the importance of the Abbey Theatre for the social, cultural and economic history of this country – not to mention its ongoing significance for Ireland and the international community as one of the key national theatres in the world.”

He added: “As the creative arts and scholarship combine, this project will see the most advanced digital technology brought to bear on one of the country’s most historic theatre archives”.