Abbey Theatre Archives Go Digital

The Old Abbey Theatre

December / January 2013

Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theatre and the National University of Ireland Galway announced an unprecedented digital archive partnership on October 22.

The collaboration, which is the largest digital theater project ever undertaken, will entail the digitization of the  1.8 million items in the Abbey’s archives. The range of artifacts includes posters, programs and photographs, lighting plans, set and costume designs, sound cues, and historic audio recordings.

The earliest item in the archive, an 1894 poster of the first production of W.B. Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire at the Avenue Theatre in London, predates the theater’s founding but is hugely significant as a testament to Yeats’ ambition to present Irish theatre outside of Ireland. Another gem reveals that Éamon De Valera took part in the Abbey’s 1905 production of A Christmas Hamper.

Dr. Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway said that the project would “see NUI Galway bring the most advanced digital technology to bear on one of the country’s most historic theatre archives,” and added that the project was based on “an awareness of the importance of the Abbey Theatre for the social, cultural and economic history of this country.”

The project began in September and will continue at the Galway campus’s James Hardiman Library over the course of three to four years, bringing together the university’s top researchers, students and archivists.

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