How can digitisation widen access to archival resources? The digital outputs produced by the Rambert Archive’s large-scale outreach project to mark the ballet and contemporary dance company’s 90th anniversary in 2016 may be of interest to those exploring this question as well as students of the performing arts.
They’ve developed the Rambert Performance Database, which draws together a wealth of information about the company's repertoire, performances, personnel, and tours over the nine decades of their performance history. Four online galleries have been created, each based on a theme related to Rambert’s history, policies, and ideals. More than 2,000 theatre programmes, cast sheets, and publicity leaflets relating to Rambert’s tours in the UK and abroad between June 1926 and March 1989 have been digitised and are now available online. Thirty-six people from eight decades of Rambert's history have been filmed talking about their involvement in the company between 1941 and 2017. They include dancers, choreographers, artistic directors, music directors, members of staff, a conductor, a stage designer, a television producer, an audience member, and Marie Rambert's grandson. Finally, four teams of young people from Lambeth and Southwark made a short documentary about Rambert’s visit to one of four venues the company visited while on tour: Norwich Theatre Royal, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Theatre Royal Brighton, and Garsington Opera. The videos include footage of class and rehearsals, interviews with key members of staff, and clips of archival films from the Rambert Archive.
All of these make the Rambert’s performance history much more widely available to a wide range of people interested in contemporary dance, set and costume design. They can not only use it for research, but as a source of creative inspiration. We’d love to be able to digitise more of our own collections, but in the meantime you can always visit us to see the originals!