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Monday, August 6, 2012

Excavating Before 1970

One of the challenges or research in the digital age is locating and accessing texts written prior to 1970 that are not commonly used. Archives are increasingly adding to online digital documents in an effort to preserve the most valuable primary source materials. In the process, manuscripts are privileged over less     snazzy (and more lengthy) old books. For my own research on theatre and dance histories these old books contain a plethora of information about play productions and period perspectives. Generally speaking, books between 1890 and 1970 get lost in the catalogue since many collections began to digitize new acquisitions around 1970. Accessing these materials is still a challenge of the digital age, and when I am able to find a volume (such as Robert Albion's History of the New York Port), it can be easier to purchase online than to acquire through library or archival sources.

My own project "Tracing Ira Aldridge, " lies at the other end of the spectrum. Through a digital tool  called MixD I am attempting to construct through mapping and photo references the performance journeys of 19th century actors. Even as I invest in data collection and sorting for realizing the visual display of graphics and information, I wonder what the accessibility of this material will be for those who want to access this tool outside of the digital world.

Posted by
Anita Gonzalez, Professor
State University of New York at New Paltz

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