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Theatre Treasures Go Digital

18 February 2013


Theatre treasures go digital to create unique learning resource.

Some of Northern Ireland’s most prized theatre materials have gone digital in a project to create a unique learning resource for schools, universities, the arts sector and the general public.

Thanks to a partnership between the Linen Hall Library and Ulster Bank, the acclaimed Theatre & Performing Arts Archive, which contains ‘treasures’ dating back to the 1700s, is now available in digital format for the first time.

The support from the bank means that thousands of items, ranging from original programmes to posters, photographs, and handbills, are now much more accessible to a wide range of users.

The new Digital Archive was launched today at an event in the Library, which is also one of the first events in the Library’s 225th anniversary celebrations.

To promote the digital archive to potential users, Ulster Bank and the Linen Hall Library today also launched an initiative, backed by Arts & Business Northern Ireland, to visit a selection of Northern Ireland schools with a travelling workshop, giving students the opportunity to engage with the material. The workshops will include an interactive talk by a theatre professional about the history and content of the Library’s Theatre & Performing Arts Archive, and a demonstration of the online resource.

Outlining the importance of the digitisation of the archive, John Killen the Linen Hall Library Librarian said, “The digitisation of our Theatre & Performing Arts Archive marks a major milestone in our plan to make the Linen Hall Library’s collections available to the widest possible audience.  We are delighted to have the support of both Ulster Bank and Arts & Business Northern Ireland to help us bring this archive to life for people and communities not just in Northern Ireland but right across the world.”

Stephen Cruise, Head of Branch Banking, Private and Financial Planning Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank said: “The digitisation of this important archive will help even more people access the rich and varied history which has shaped theatre and performing arts in Northern Ireland over the last 300 years. We are delighted to be working with the Linen Hall Library and Arts & Business Northern Ireland to reach out to schools across Northern Ireland with workshops and to help students engage with the arts through these fascinating theatre treasures.”

Welcoming the new initiative, Heather Carr from Arts & Business Northern Ireland said: “We are very happy to be supporting Ulster Bank’s commitment to such an exciting initiative which through this incredible resource brings the arts to a much wider audience.”

The Linen Hall Library is a truly unique institution. Founded in 1788, it is the oldest library in Belfast and one of the oldest in the UK. It is open free to the public, but remains the only library in Ireland that raises a substantial part of its running costs from membership. This year the Linen Hall celebrates its 225th birthday with a year-long programme of talks, performances, exhibitions and publications.

More information about the Theatre and Performing Arts Archive, the primary source of theatrical material from Northern Ireland, and the school workshops can be found at www.linenhall.com

Pictured above (l-r): Stephen Cruise, Head of Branch Banking, Private and Financial Planning Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank, Mary Trainor-Nagele, CEO, Arts and Business and  John Killen, Linen Hall Library Librarian.