PERFORMING ARTS ONLINE 2001
of article originally published in Online
Currents January/February 2001 and reprinted with kind permission of the
publishers Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd.
Big picture thinking
industry produces an avalanche of information. Managing
this information – online and offline – requires macro and micro
approaches to maximise productivity and accessibility.
is no grand plan, although there have been noises in a number of circles on
the way government bodies and other organisations embrace technology. The risk
is that too much emphasis will be given too early to e-commerce and
technological solutions before underlying needs have been well articulated.
The role of governments, libraries and special interest groups is vital in
ensuring that the right questions are addressed before micro solutions begin
to pave over cow patches.
A national inventory of
organisations would be a useful starting point to integrate and clarify issues
like industry and enterprise reporting needs, approaches to information
management and the preservation of cultural heritage material..
Industry and enterprise
reporting is shaped by the Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working
Group, established in 1985 to develop, collect and disseminate statistics
using the National Cultural-Leisure Industry Statistical Framework. The
Australian Bureau of Statistics has produced reports with information on
employment, expenditure and revenue, among other features of the industry.
Improvements to the statistical framework itself and the way the information
is collected and collated to deliver more sophisticated information will
involve a high degree of planning and promotion by government bodies, working
with cultural enterprises.
Information and records
management strategies are needed because of the impact of the ubiquitous PC,
which has had both deleterious and beneficial consequences in performing arts
organisations. Information is
more easily created, manipulated and shared.
It is also sometimes harder to find and easier to lose.
Whole-of-government policies and auditable records management programs in
government agencies are in train, but addressing information management issues
in non-regulated environments requires deeper analysis
On audio visual
preservation of performances, the most direct and most elusive form of
information, Australian organisations have nibbled at the question for some
time. The systematic development of an archive was implied when the PAML Pilot
Project was announced, but the issue appears to have fallen through a crack.
The Cultural Ministers
Council has decided to commission a study of factors influencing the artistic
and financial position of Australia's small-to-medium sized performing arts
organisations. The extent to which this exercise will embrace information
management, digital preservation and other online questions is unknown at this
The media, newspapers in
particular, play an important role in promoting and documenting the performing
arts. Coverage of arts events in newspapers has doubled in the last two
Access to newspaper archives
via internet sites can be cumbersome and often disappointing. Moreover, access
is limited or only available for a fee. Issues relating to access and long
term preservation of this information have received prominence in previous
issues of Online Currents.
Some libraries have been
involved in major indexing projects or have created significant press
clippings files. The Sydney Morning Herald indexes and Infoquick database,
created by the State Library of New South Wales, and the substantial press
clippings file and index, created by the Dennis Wolanski Library of the
Performing Arts 1973-1997, now at the University of New South Wales Library,
are examples. .
There is enormous scope
for the identification and conversion of existing manual and electronic
indexes in the hands of libraries, academics and publishers into a more
accessible online form and, if proprietary interests can be satisfied,
long-term possibilities in utilising media effort and database systems to
streamline the creation, control and use of this information.
The role of libraries and associations
The information approach by
large and small cultural organisations is idiosyncratic and sometimes based on
Changes in government records
management policy and legislation are likely to improve information management
and transfer in government controlled organisations. The role of the national and state libraries in handling long-term curatorial obligations
and interests in the non-regulated digital environment needs to be
performing arts attracts an Australia-wide audience of 7,550,600 annually. Audiences
have helped to build library collections through donations of memorabilia such
as theatre and concert programs. The
printed program will not disappear for some time to come. Nor will the process
in which collectors will donate them to libraries. It is a labour intensive
inefficient exercise, awaiting online innovation.
arts library and information associations include Arts Libraries
Society/Australia and New Zealand, Museum Australia’s Performing Arts
Special Interest Group of Museums Australia (PASIG), the Australian Branch of
the International Association of Music Libraries, Documentation Centres and
Archives (IAML), the recently formed ALIA Music Special Interest Group and the
Australian Sound Recording Association (ASRA). All
have websites and links to people with long-standing dedication to the
subject, journals that generate ideas and electronic discussion groups.
However, they have tended to operate with little coordination and, generally,
with limited aims and influence centring on curatorial and library user
Neil McLean, in Collaborating
to Compete: the search for new alliances, puts it well:
Broad areas require
collaborative solutions in order to reach cost effective scaleable solutions
for matching users with information resources... the old rules and
mechanisms for library collaboration do not readily translate into the
networked information service environment and new ways have to be found to
both scope and plan the boundaries for collaborative activity and fund the
resulting business models.