Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The East London Theatre Archive

The East London Theatre Archive (a JISC funded project) is a wonderful resource for theatre and social historians. Drawing on a range of sources, primarily but not exclusively the V&A Theatre Collections, the theatres themselves and the University of East London, 103 theatres are represented from the Albert Saloon to Walthamstow Palace. A fascinating area, East London includes theatres such as the Pavilion Theatre and Queen's Theatre, but also many music halls, temperance halls, coffee houses and saloons. The screen shot shows records for Albert Saloon.

The website is excellent, with searching (including popular searches), browsing by collection, theatre, material, place, decade, subject and Quick topic (e.g. equestrian drama or dogs).  The search results are accompanied by thumbnails which click through to further thumbnails of each page and rich metadata. Clicking on these thumbnail leads to the full image.

The project goes far beyond the realm of entertainment and includes advertising in theatre programmes, and themes such as the Crimean War and Slavery. The list of subjects covered is vast and enticing: alcoholism, apes, architectural drawing, automata, etc. etc. ELTA is also a rich resource for family historians.

Excellent essays by Catherine Haill (with bibliographies) on such themes as East London Immigration and Pantomimes contextualise the material. There is an informative introductory essay by John Earl.

There is much to explore and a further project, CEDAR, which has now moved to OTHA at UEL has added further dimensions to the project, including the theatre holdings of Royal Holloway (London University) and will form the subject of a future blog post.

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