Searching for Theatrical Ancestors (STAR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: English

Abstract

The National Trust's archive of the Victorian Shakespearean actor Ellen Terry (1847-1928) and her daughter, theatre director, suffragette, lesbian, Edith Craig (1869-1947), has proven to be a rich source of information for theatre historians and researchers, with extensive usage demonstrated internationally. Play programmes and other documents demonstrate that Ellen Terry was involved in numerous theatre productions, especially Shakespeare's plays and she gave lectures about Shakespeare in Britain, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database provides an online database to search this important theatre archive of over 20,000 documents.
This project, entitled 'Searching for Theatrical Ancestors' (STAR), therefore seeks to facilitate and enhance the use of this online database by family historians interested in the culturally and politically volatile period from the late nineteenth- to the twentieth centuries. Additional data will be provided about Lyceum Theatre productions 1878-1903 and Shakespeare productions, scenes and lectures 1910-21, hitherto only described in the database, by means of digitized and scanned, searchable images of play programmes (including cast lists and adverts). An improved interface will also provide new links to other online data sources such as census records, transatlantic passenger lists, googlemaps.
The enhancement of the database and its interface will be piloted in a workshop, (drawn from the membership of those who advised on the original AHRC ETEC database) who will contribute their opinions during the pilot stage of the development of the enhancements to the website. The inclusion of representatives from the British Library and the National Trust will reflect the implications of the online database for users who wish to view the archival holdings at these institutions. Principally the selection of material for digitization is informed by the identified need of family history researchers to search on individuals' names. Theatrical tours made visible those individuals involved and their journey may be traced by means of passenger lists as well as play programmes. Therefore, where possible links will be included to other online resources. The project will generate new ways of thinking about family-theatre history, invigorating the use of archival resources and the demonstration of the enhanced resource at the public conference at the British Library during the Shakespeare exhibition in 2016 will ensure that it reaches a wide audience. The schedule of work is timed to ensure that feedback will be used both from the pilot test and the conference at the British Library. The timing of the conference to coincide with 'Shakespeare 400' in 2016 promises to attract the widest audience.

Planned Impact

The project aims to improve access to the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database for two principal groups of non-academic users.

The first group is in the field of museum and heritage and specifically includes members of staff of the National Trust at Smallhythe Place, Tenterden, Kent, as well as volunteers and visitors who are seeking further information about Ellen Terry and her family. Ellen Terry purchased the late fifteenth-century property in 1899 and Terry's daughter, Edith Craig, handed the property and archive to the National Trust in 1939. Invitations to engage with the project will be extended to other relevant National Trust properties, such as Ayot St Lawrence (George Bernard Shaw) and other art galleries, such as the Watts Gallery (G. F. Watts), the National Portrait Gallery, the Garrick Club and Dimbola Lodge (Julia Margaret Cameron).

The second group is in the field of family history and theatre history, ranging from individuals engaging in their own family history research to those involved in organisations such as Family History societies and centres, the Genealogical Society, the Society for Theatre Research.

A new and creative interactive interface with new search facilities, attractive to a new user group outside academia and accessing a selection of newly digitized theatre programmes, will enable this already valuable resource to engage in new ways with the public and the principal stakeholders, the British Library and the National Trust. The proposed enhancement to this existing online database catalogue of one of the UK's most significant theatre archives, of over 20,000 archival documents, will highlight the transatlantic and Antipodean theatre activities of Britain's most renowned performers of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century: Ellen Terry and Henry Irving.

The creation of an online digital world map of the productions of Shakespeare by the Lyceum Theatre company in London and on tour and of Ellen Terry's Shakespeare lectures in Australia, New Zealand and the UK in the period 1883-1915, will promote new international research collaborations as well as new, enjoyable means of learning about Shakespeare.

The principal enhancement proposed by the STAR project will be a digital map which will locate the productions geographically by means of a 'Shakespeare Train' icon, providing links to new contextual information designed for a general user group, including school students, adding value to the existing online resource. A second layer of information, suited especially to genealogists and academic user groups, will link the map to a selection of Shakespeare programmes described in the online database, to promote new engagement with the data through enhancing the geographical location of performances described in the archive.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The interactive map locates the tours Ellen Terry worked on and this visualisation of the listing of the dates of performances and their venues has led to a greater appreciation of the distances travelled and the complexities of the cycle of plays performed. Although some tour lists have existed in other publications, there were gaps and the collation of the data for the map has created a valuable new resource in itself.

The case study on Ellen Terry on tour in Liverpool (delivered as an invited talk at a Symposium in the Central Library) identified unexpected evidence in play programmes other than the expected commercial advertisements. These play programmes included notices to inform the audience about the use of the venue itself and other leisure facilities nearby. The play programme described the behaviour of audience members. The theatre venue provided guidance in the play programme for audience members who were expecting telephone calls during the performance. Another play programme for a theatre on a pier, emphasised the facilities for bathers with the newly improved drainage near the seafront. These examples demonstrate the variety of information provided in play programmes which may be of use to economic and social historians and researchers interested in the history of the leisure and heritage industries as well as local history.

The search for freely available online datasets led to the discovery of the AHRC Reading Experience Database. This resource drew attention to the reading experiences mentioned in correspondence described on the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database and therefore identifies a new source of reading experiences. For the current project, the reading experiences of others (available on the AHRC RED) may provide family history researchers with useful contextualisation and points of comparison to help to understand the significance of references to reading in different periods of history.
Exploitation Route The digitised Shakespeare play programmes which have been added to the online resource would be relevant for teachers to use to enhance the students' experience of studying Shakespeare and considering how, when and where Shakespeare's plays have been performed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I expect to do further public engagement with school teachers.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://ellenterryarchive.hull.ac.uk/star
 
Description The new Searching for Theatrical Ancestors resource has been used extensively by family history researchers, the intended new audience for this online resource. This is evidenced by Googleanalytics data indicating an increased usage of the online resource after the two launch events (conference at the British Library 29 July 2016 and copyright for family history researchers at the RSA, London on 7 September 2016) as outlined below. The enhancements to the online resource included a redesign to ensure that it works equally well on devices with different size screens including mobile devices. This redesign has been particularly successful as demonstrat in the analysis below. The two launch events were extensively advertised on social media and specifically promoted by the partner organisation, Federation of Family History Societies, to their membership. They were also publicised on Twitter by the account for BBC Who Do You Think You Are?, and the other two partner organisations, the British Library, National Trust at Smallhythe Place. Awareness of the online resource has also been raised by social media coverage on Twitter during #ancestryhour In the BBC Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, issue 121, Dec 2016 p. 24, the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors resource is listed as one of the 'top 50 websites to watch in 2017'. The BBC Who Do You Think You Are? annual event at the NEC Birmingham 6-8 April 2017 invited the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors project to have a stand. This is expected to extend its reach to the family history research community even further as 13,000 people are expected to attend the event. The AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors online resource has provided an enhanced experience for the staff at the British Library and the National Trust's Smallhythe Place to assist them in responding to members of the public who are accessing the Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Archive. The project conference at the British Library brought together invited speakers from leading theatre archives and libraries, providing an opportunity to demonstrate the online resource and facilitate discussions about the extension of the use of theatre archives by the general public. The copyright workshop, led by Naomi Korn, provided a further opportunity for fruitful discussion on the use of theatre archives for family history by the general public and the relevance of copyright issues. This collaboration has led to a development of new guidance for family history researchers which will be made available on the online resource in the near future. A brief comparative analysis (using Googleanalytics) of the use of the online resource in the period since its launch (29 July 2016 to 14 March 2017) and the same period preceding the launch (13 December 2015 to 28 July 2016) shows: 1) The number of unique users and sessions (discrete periods when those users are looking at the site) has approximately doubled: 13-Dec-2015 - 28-Jul-2016: 943 users; 1,239 sessions 29-Jul-2016 - 14-Mar-2017: 1,846 users;2,455 sessions 2) The number of sessions from users in the UK has risen by 130% and represents over 66% of all sessions, an increase in share of 16%. 3) The number of page views has gone up by 70% 13-Dec-2015 - 28-Jul-2016: 4,789 29-Jul-2016 - 14-Mar-2017: 8,216 4) The bounce rate (percentage of visitors who just look at one page and then leave) has reduced 13-Dec-2015 - 28-Jul-2016: 66% 29-Jul-2016 - 14-Mar-2017: 50% 5) Mobile usage The number of visitors using mobile phones has increased by 283% and those using tablets by 125% A better experience on a variety of device/screen sizes was a key goal of the redesign. In 2017-18 further extensive use of the Searching for Theatrical Ancestors (STAR) resource has been made by family history researchers. This is demonstrated by 74 items of written feedback provided by over 90 individuals who visited the project demonstration at the BBC Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) event at the NEC, Birmingham 6-8 April 2017. Some of these family history researchers at this event found new information on their ancestor on STAR (questionnaires available). One of these individuals pursued further advice and this led to her project to catalogue her own family history archive using similar data fields to those used in STAR. At this event I was interviewed by Family Tree magazine and featured in their editorial on BBC WDYTYA (Family Tree, June 2017, p. 7; 62,000 readers circulation data from https://www.familytreemagazine.com/advertise/ ) and interviewed by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist for his website online from 20 April 2017 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QDDuefYk-0 One of the attendees invited me to write a short article on STAR which is published in Local History News: Magazine of the British Association for Local History (no. 126, Winter 2018, p. 8). As a result of contacts made at the BBC WDYTYA event, two further demonstrations of the STAR resource were given: Yorkshire Family History (YFH) Fair, 24 June 2017; and Buxton Family History Fair, 16 March 2018; and an interview with me was included in an illustrated article with Family Tree magazine ('Treading the Boards' by Simon Wills, Family Tree Magazine, Oct 2017, pp. 44-45; 62,000 readers circulation data source as above). At YFH Fair, 24 June 2017, at York Racecourse, one of the largest family history events in England with over 70 exhibitors, the STAR resource was demonstrated. One of the attendees, the editor of the Huddersfield Family History Newsletter subsequently wrote a notice about STAR in that newsletter. At this event I was invited to give a talk and demonstration of STAR at a forthcoming East Yorkshire Family History meeting in Beverley, East Yorkshire (scheduled for 4 September 2018). At this event, I demonstrated the STAR resource for Tahitia McCabe, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, who subsequently chose to add a link to and include the STAR resource as one of the specialist databases for study in week three of the six-week Future Learn MOOC Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree. The STAR resource has been included in the summer 2017 iteration of the MOOC (7,000 online students) and in the current fifth iteration (6,722 students) and has been well-received by the students who are registered online and drawn from the lifelong learning demographic. The STAR link is available (after registration on the course) at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/genealogy/5/steps/296788 The STAR resource was demonstrated at the Hull History Centre on 21 November 2017 as part of the AHRC Being Human Festival (unfunded event). The STAR resource was demonstrated at the 'Tracing the trace: What is an archive? What is a collection? What is a document?' A Lives & Letters/Narrative & A/B Studies Event, Friday 13 January 2017 at University of Edinburgh, attended by academics, members of the public, archive and library professionals. A poster contribution was made online to 'The power of the metaphorical: reflections and diffractions in archival research' at University of East London on 13 March 2017 at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6t8_XmpPFEodjBuYjZTX05Ddm8/view A third paper on the topic was given at the 'Multiplicities of Writing and Archival Research' event at Friday 16 June 2017, University of Cambridge with academics and members of the public in attendance.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors
Amount £67,730 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N003438/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 03/2017
 
Title AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors 
Description A new and creative interactive interface to the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database has new search facilities, attractive to a new user group outside academia and accessing a selection of newly digitized theatre programmes, enabling this already valuable resource to engage in new ways with the public and the principal stakeholders, the British Library and the National Trust. The enhancements to this existing online database catalogue of one of the UK's most significant theatre archives, of over 20,000 archival documents, highlights the transatlantic and Antipodean theatre activities of Britain's most renowned performers of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century: Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. The database is accessible freely online. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors has been identified by 'Who Do You Think You Are' Magazine as one of the top 50 websites to watch in 2017. 
URL http://www.ellenterryarchive.hull.ac.uk/star
 
Description British Library 
Organisation The British Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database project has provided an open access freely available online guide to the archive, enabling the staff to locate documents for readers visiting for research purposes and for conservation purposes.
Collaborator Contribution The British Library is a project partner for the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors project and has provided a venue for the project conference as well as digitising play programmes for the project.
Impact The British Library has received on long-term loan the National Trust's Ellen Terry and Edith Craig archive as a result of the completion of the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database project.
 
Description Federation of Family History Societies 
Organisation Federation of Family History Societies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The FFHS were invited to give feedback on the enhancements to the online resource Searching for Theatrical Ancestors and to attend the project conference and copyright workshop. These interactions created new opportunities for the FFHS to extend their engagement with other heritage organisations who were involved in these events.
Collaborator Contribution The FFHS publicised the project conference, copyright workshop and the opportunities to give feedback on the online resource to its extensive membership of family history societies.
Impact The collaboration has resulted in the wider awareness of the online resource with FFHS members.
Start Year 2015
 
Description The National Trust, Smallhythe Place 
Organisation National Trust
Department Smallhythe Place
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database provides a detailed scholarly guide to the National Trust's archive of over 20,000 documents. the completion of the online resource enabled the National Trust to deposit most of the archive on long-term loan at the British Library. The online guide enables National Trust staff and volunteers to answer questions from the public about the archive.
Collaborator Contribution The National Trust is a project partner for both AHRC grants, including the follow-on project, the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors project. Staff and volunteers have provided feedback on the design of the original online resource and on the follow-on funded project. The project conferences have been attended by staff and volunteers from Smallhythe Place and they have publicised them to their volunteers.
Impact Access to archive to facilitate the cataloguing project which is the basis of the online resource, Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database. Permission to digitise play programmes from the archive to be used on the Searching for Theatrical Ancestors resource. The collaboration involves academic research in theatre history (me as Principal Investigator), computer programming and website design (project consultants) and heritage industry (National Trust).
 
Description Copyright Workshop for Family History Researchers (RSA London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The copyright issues for family history researchers workshop (7 Sep 2016) aimed to address the following:

Researching family histories is painstaking and important work. It opens up access to crucial information about our past and contributes to helping us understand why, how, who and when. But finding and interpreting the content is only one aspect. The researcher needs to understand the legalities, including the rights associated with the content - whether it is text, image, audio - in order to ensure that any publication of the content can be done legitimately.

The workshop was run by leading copyright specialist, Naomi Korn, and explored some crucial issues for family historians in an accessible format. The discussions with delegates raised awareness in particular about issues relating to the use of photographs on websites and social media sites and the relevance of checking rights issues and the advisability of clear 'take-down' notices. Delegates found the guidance and worksheets particularly useful and said that they would use these in the future when researching the relevant rights issues and making decisions about using materials relating to their family history research. There were many myths and misunderstandings about copyright which were discussed and the workshop enabled the delegates to consider the complex aspects relating to rights in text and images relevant for their family history research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www2.hull.ac.uk/fass/english/research/research-themes/modern-and-contemporary-lit/projects/ah...
 
Description Invited talk on 'Ellen Terry in Liverpool', Liverpool Central Library. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to give a talk entitled 'Ellen Terry in Liverpool' for the symposium on Late Victorian Literary Liverpool, organised by Mark Samuels Lasner and Professor Margaret Stetz, University of Delaware, USA at Liverpool Central Library, Liverpool, 29 October 2016. This event was organised to complement the exhibition ('Richard LeGallienne: Liverpool's Wild(e) Poet') organised by Mark Samuels Lasner and Professor Margaret Stetz to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth in Liverpool of Richard LeGallienne. The symposium was part of the literary festival in Liverpool, open to the public. In my paper I chose examples of play programmes from Ellen Terry's performances in the Liverpool region to demonstrate how these documents may be used to trace ancestors involved with local businesses which advertised in play programmes. Audience members requested more publicity about the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors online resource so that they could pass the postcards and bookmarks on to friends and associates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.materialculture.udel.edu/index.php/2016/08/18/mark-samuels-lasner-and-margaret-stetz-cocu...
 
Description Searching for Theatrical Ancestors conference (British Library, London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I organised a conference, open to the public, to publicise my project and to demonstrate the online resource. My paper was entitled 'Tales of Theatrical Ancestors' and the Searching for Theatrical Ancestors Conference was held on 29 July 2016, British Library, London. Other invited speakers included archivists from the Garrick Club, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery. Publicity for the event on social media reached the BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine which subsequently listed the Searching for Theatrical Ancestors online resources as one of the 50 Websites to Watch for 2017 (Issue 121, Jan 2017, p. 24). Audience discussion demonstrated a very positive response to the resource and online use of the site increased significantly after the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.bl.uk/events/searching-for-theatrical-ancestors
 
Description Talk on 'Searching for Theatrical Ancestors: Traces in the Archive' (Edinburgh University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a talk entitled 'Searching for Theatrical Ancestors: Traces in the Archive' at the Tracing the trace: What is an archive? What is a collection? What is a document? A Lives & Letters/Narrative & A/B Studies Event, Edinburgh University, 13 Jan 2017. The participants in the event included archivists and practitioners as well as academics and members of the public. A network is developing from this event and further events have been organised
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.sites.google.com/site/thebookarchiveproject/
 
Description Who Was Gordon Craig? event, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a talk for the general public entitled 'Edith Craig, Edward Gordon Craig (and the Bach Inheritance)' at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage on 31 July 2016. I was one of four invited speakers for this event, organised to launch a Heritage Lottery funded project to raise awareness about Edward Gordon Craig in Stevenage and the region. My talk was recorded and is freely available in open access on the project website (see URL below). Discussion with the audience demonstrated that my talk had raised awareness about Edith Craig's work as a costumier and theatre director and her influence on her brother.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.edwardgordoncraig.co.uk/media/craig-50-years-on/
 
Description demonstration (AHRC Being Human Festival Event, Hull History Centre, 21 Nov 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This unfunded activity for the AHRC Being Human Festival on Lost and Found theme involved a free workshop open to the public at Hull History Centre at which the AHRC Searching for Theatrical ancestors website was demonstrated, followed by Q&A. The event falls during the Explore Your Archie national advocacy campaign led by the Archives and Records Association and the National Archives. The Hull History Centre (project partner for the AHRC STAR Being Human festival event) ran a week-long programme of events and activities to celebrate this and to highlight its work to archive Hull City of Culture in 2017. My AHRC STAR workshop was promoted by the Hull History Centre alongside these other events. Two University of Hull postgraduate students assisted with social media promotion and on the day by welcoming attendees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description demonstration (U3A Family History Network event, Buxton, 16 March 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote speaker at U3A Peak District Family History Network (Sheffield & District Family History Society), 16 March 2018, Palace Hotel, Buxton. http://www.my-history.co.uk/sheffieldfhs/spring%20talk%202018.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description demonstration (Yorkshire Family History Fair, 24 June 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I demonstrated the AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors online resource at a stand at the annual Yorkshire Family History Fair at York Racecourse on 24 June 2017. The attendees included family history researchers as well as genealogists. As a result of the demonstrations, I was invited to speak at the East Yorkshire Family History Society meeting on 4 September 2018 and one of the delegates wrote an article about the resource for the Huddersfield Family History newsletter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017