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Navigating Ireland's Theatre Archive

Theory, Practice, Performance


Edited By Barry Houlihan

The historiography of Irish theatre has largely been dependent on in-depth studies of the play-text as the definitive primary source. This volume explores the processes of engaging with the documented and undocumented record of Irish theatre and broadens the concept of evidential study of performance through the use of increasingly diverse sources. The archive is regarded here as a broad repository of evidence including annotated scripts, photographs, correspondence, administrative documents, recordings and other remnants of the mechanics of producing theatre. It is an invaluable resource for scholars and artists in interrogating Ireland’s performance history.

This collection brings together key thinkers, scholars and practitioners who engage with the archive of Irish theatre and performance in terms of its creation, management and scholarly as well as artistic interpretation. New technological advances and mass digitization allow for new interventions in this field. The essays gathered here present new critical thought and detailed case studies from archivists, theatre scholars, historians and artists, each working in different ways to uncover and reconstruct the past practice of Irish performance through new means.

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Preface (Charlotte McIvor)


Charlotte McIvor


This collection is at the vanguard of theorising engagement with archives as a theoretical, methodological, creative and affective set of practices undertaken by the individual, collective or institution. Navigating Ireland’s Theatre Archive: Theory, Practice, Performance deals not only with the historiographical concern of how working with archival materials shapes (and limits) our knowledge but also deals with the practical issue of how archives are constructed and maintained from the ground up and over time. Not only that, the collection also takes on how contemporary artists might engage with archives as a creative stimulus.

We launched the digitisation of the Abbey Theatre’s archives at the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2012, the year I started my employment in this university and moved to Ireland from the United States. A project years in the making as a partnership between the Abbey Theatre and NUI Galway, this digitisation’s scale and ambition has stretched limits of both imagination and collaboration on the ground. The Abbey Digitisation is the ‘largest theatre history digitisation project worldwide’1 but here on the ground, it joins many other theatre and performance collections including the Druid Theatre, Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, the Galway International Arts Festival, and Macnas, as well as the papers of playwrights Thomas Kilroy, John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy and performers Siobhán McKenna and Arthur Shields. These holdings represent decades of commitment to the craft of archival preservation by this institution and the library’s...

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