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Richard Palmer – Centre for E-Research, KCL

Dr Mary Smith - Library and Learning Services, UEL

Clustering and Enhancing Digital

Archives Research Project
Embedding Theatre Archives in Teaching and Learning
East London Theatre Archive –launched 2009

15,000 digital images of theatre ephemera 19th

- 21st century - from V & A Theatre Museum
collection and from seven surviving East
London theatres
Clustering and Enhancing Digital Archives Research

UEL & KCL with collaborating partners (and their archives)

Universities of Nottingham, Sheffield and Royal Holloway London

Mapping the field of relevant subject areas and available resources:

How to use: Embedding with students
How to organise: Clustering with researchers

We are:
- user led
- audience focused
- evidence based
With students we ask, are we relevant?
We have guides, but what information are
we providing to help them?
Subject specialists: do they agree with it?

What do they think is the ‘voice’ of the

What happens when you expose 15,000 records to a trusting/ testing
Findings so far: Questions:
Institutional cultures • Does advocacy need to be multi-directional (i.e.
• Students (but not just students) find towards service providers, academics as well as
archives puzzling students?)
• Students use archival material as a • How do we help students understand archives?
‘verbatim’ source of information and are • Who provides skills – us?
easily confused/ misled
• Who provides more information – us?
• Knowledge and learning skills need

• Should the archive be a ‘guide’ to content?

Archives cultures
• Should it give contextual information?
• Digital archives appear to replicate
• Should it have such an authoritative voice?
traditional museum audiences
• Relevance of content

• What does clustering mean – should we

Information cultures
categorise via the paradigms used in the subject
• Different sectors have different ideas about area?
• Should we continue to categorise using
• Different fields of expertise cluster traditional metadata and knowledge provided by
knowledge together in different ways museum, libraries and archives sector?
Involving the Community:
Identifying users and their needs:

I came across a playbill dated 16/4/1906 that lists Jack I am enquiring about the possibility of obtaining a copy of a
Woolf as the theatre manager of the Queens High St Poplar programme you have listed - this is in connection with
Theatre (I think!) Are you able to confirm that Jack Woolf family history. The programme dated 1928 mentions my
was related to Benjamin & Edward? If so, how? If you are Great Uncle's variety act – The Charles Kasrac Trio.
unable to help me, who could I consult that might be able to
provide that information? I have been researching my family history for some time,
but have recently found that my 2x G Gran was first cousin
Do you have any reports of "Industrious Fleas" in your to the Aynsley Cooks opera singers and actors. On the
archive collection? I did try searching but with no results 1891 census I have found an Alice Wilding – opera singer,
staying with the family, who would be about the right age
for Alice Aynsley Cook. I have tried to find a marriage
I am writing from Australia hoping you can help me with some
record here for her but have been unsuccessful. Do you
information. I am related to Benjamin Woolf, the theatrical
know if she ever married – and was it while she was touring
actor/singer, & his son Edward Woolf, the composer/ band
abroad? I know she did go to America.
Leader who worked at the Royal Pavilion Theatre for some
years before he moved to the US. Your web site has been an
I wrote a message on another page. I hope you have
invaluable aid in locating information about their lives, & I am
received it. However I am interested in finding out more
hoping you can help me with another enquiry.
about my Collection of old theatre programmes inherited
from my late grandfather. He must have been a keen
I'm currently studying in performing arts at uel and I am
theatre goer. These programmes are from Stratford Empire,
doing a case study on theatre royal stratford east and was Borough theatre and the Palace East Ham. They are from
wondering how I would access more information I need 1901 Very interesting in terms of content and in fairly good
help or support to locate the following: condition. I looked on your website and found some items
Scripts playbills images financial information very much like my collection. It would be good to hear from
‘Enhancing’ metadata? We need more information?

If we did it:
Key issues: standards, accuracy, funding, time, knowledge

Clustering: information, themes, coverage of content, voices and representation

Finding: community of users/ future users

Providing more information Involving the community in

for the community information generation


Contributed content?

Providing Enhanced metadata?

Essays? Edited blogs or contributions?

More contextual themed information? Information generating tasks?

If you need any more information
Read our blog
Or have any ideas for us
Or want to take part in any workshops
Please get in touch
Mary –
Richard –