In this newsletter, we share progress reports for In the Spotlight, Convert-a-card and Georeferencer, highlight some interesting forum discussions, share links to our updates and appearances in the news, and celebrate another wonderful In the Spotlight volunteer.
We've made great progress thanks to over 1800 registered volunteers (and many others who didn't need to register) who've made over 124,000 contributions on the LibCrowds platform.
Thank you also to people who took our survey to help us understand more about our contributors.
Your help needed
While we're thrilled with the progress so far, there's always more to do!
At In the Spotlight, you can help make historic playbills findable for theatres including: Theatre Royal, Liverpool 1823-1825, Olympic Theatre 1815-1831, Old Vic (Royal Cobourg) Theatre 1824-1833, Miscellaneous theatres: Shepton Mallet – Shrewsbury, 1791-1847, Miscellaneous Nottingham theatres 1806-1831, Miscellaneous theatres: Nottingham - Oswestry 1755-1848, New Theatre Royal, Hull 1810-1811, Miscellaneous theatres: Huddersfield - Ledbury 1783-1864, Theatre Royal, Bristol 1819-1823, Theatre Royal, Dublin 1830-1839, Miscellaneous Birmingham theatres 1774-1800, Chideock to Deptford 1790-1853, Portsmouth 1781-1782, Derby to Drogheda 1792-1852, Miscellaneous Hull theatres 1820-1828.
Like library things? You can help digitise card catalogues for Urdu and Pinyin collections at Convert-a-Card.
Up for a challenge? There are 15000 maps still to be georeferenced in the current release of the Georeferencer: help georeference maps.
Media appearances and posts related to In the Spotlight
We were thrilled to talk to journalists about our project, and hope you enjoyed the articles:
In The Stage, with thanks to the BL's Christian Algar, The golden age of the playbill: how the British Library is rediscovering Victorian posters
In The Times, Roll up! British Library’s plea for its playbills
We were also on the road, with Christian and Beatrice leading a workshop at Portsmouth Libraries in October.
We've also been posting about how the information you've transcribed has helped us learn more about theatre history:
Recent forum conversations
Have you visited the In the Spotlight forum? Anyone's welcome to post, and there are some fascinating posts, including:
- In search of 'Roscius' features fantastic posts from a range of contributors about the range of actors described as 'Roscius' (and why they did it)
- Famous people spotted - whether it's a Kean, a Kemble, Mrs Waylett, Charles Dickens or Aldridge, or even the famous dogs Hector and Bruno, share your celebrity sightings here!
- Spotted on 'In the Spotlight'... is a great place to share the small interesting things you've noticed on playbills, or report on your investigations, as Nicky did here: 'While working through some of the @oldvictheatre playbills I came across an intriguing announcement 'The Spare Bed is unavoidably postponed, in consequence of Mr Keeley's accident'' - what did she find out when she followed the story?
- Typos?! - sometimes it's hard to tell if a placename is written differently because of a typo or whether it was a common variant. And sometimes it's just fun to share typos.
- Doing more with playbills data is a more technical thread on how you might use the data created and how it could be integrated with other sources
- Parts of a playbill is an overview designed to provide some context
- Theatre opening dates includes some fabulous graphics from our PhD placement student, Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott, and discussion of theatrical season
- Your requests for help / questions about the project - we welcome your questions, discussion of possible issues with the interface and suggestions for future improvements
This time we've asked Nicola to share her story after noticing her comments on tasks and on twitter.
How did you hear about In the Spotlight?
It’s a while ago now so I’m not sure, I think I must have seen it when browsing the British Library site for anything relating to playbills and noticed a link.
What inspired you to contribute?
I’ve been researching my family’s history in the theatre for almost 10 years and I have been fortunate enough to trace that performance heritage back to 1780 so far. I’ve always found playbills to be one of the most interesting sources, this may be something to do with having grown up with a playbill from 1844 hanging opposite the door of my childhood bedroom. One of the challenges in using playbills has been access but this is becoming easier as more have been digitised but it is still reliant on the ability to carry out a search, I was very motivated to be able to help in a small way to improve access and searches of playbills. Otherwise you're reliant on luck when searching for a specific performer who moved around a lot, I felt very lucky when I visited the British Library's Shakespeare exhibition and spotted a playbill featuring my great-great-great grandfather during his time on the York circuit.
Do you have a favourite find so far?
Due to the personal connection my favourite playbill is one for the theatre in Dover dating from 1809, it features both of my great-great-great grandparents six months before they married. A newspaper announcement for their marriage shows that they were performing at the Deal theatre at that time.
What do you like most about the project?
Making these playbill collections more accessible and rediscovering the forgotten stories from the major and minor theatres, this isn’t a project that focuses only on the big names. Playbills contain so much more knowledge than simply who performed a particular role on a particular day; they can be a mixture of advertising as they promote improvements made to the theatre itself, gossip column with actors and theatre managers carrying out public arguments, and biographies of the performers when they feel the need.
What would you say to someone who was interested in contributing to the project?
The tasks are quite straightforward so if you’re interested just dive right in, due to the choice you’re given regarding the different collections that are available there will always be something that is of particular interest to work on. It is always worth taking the time to read through the whole playbill, you never know what you may come across while simply transcribing the date.
We'd love to hear from you
We love hearing from researchers and contributors. If you'd like to be featured in an upcoming newsletter or send other feedback, get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on the project forum https://community.libcrowds.com/t/in-the-spotlight or on twitter @LibCrowds.
Speaking of celebrations, we're curious - if we hosted a celebration for our contributors, what would be the most convenient time and day for those who can get to London? Let us know on twitter or email!
Dr. Mia Ridge
Digital Curator, British Library