SIBMAS/TLA Conference 2014

Report by Ramona Riedzewski

The 60th anniversary conference of SIBMAS was held at the John Jay College in central Manhattan over four days, 10-13 June 2014. Entitled ‘Body, Mind, Artifact: Reimagining Collections’, the conference was hosted jointly with the Theatre Library Association (TLA). This echoed the last time the SIBMAS conference was held in the USA, in 1982, when it was also in New York and run in collaboration with TLA, which published the proceedings, relating to stage design. Around 100 delegates attended the 60th anniversary conference, of which nine were from the UK and one from Ireland.

The first day, 10 June, offered delegates the chance to visit two organisations from various museums, libraries, theatres/art centres and performing arts companies, to see how they were working. The morning’s choice was from Carnegie Hall, Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Museum of the City of New York, New York Philharmonic Archives, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Roundabout Theatre Archive, and Shubert Archive.

The afternoon’s options were Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Mark Morris Dance Group, Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York University’s Fales Library, and Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Thereafter, the conference was held at John Jay College. Each day began with a keynote speech, followed plenary sessions of three or four papers. After lunch, parallel working sessions took place. The keynote speakers were the Broadway designer William Ivey Long, who also spoke about caring for his work; Nic Leonhardt, a theatre and media historian from Germany; and Marvin Taylor, Director of the Fales Library and Special Collections, who was wonderfully provocative with his command to stop digitising paper.

Each day was more or less themed, with presentations on 11 June deliberately focusing on dance under the heading ‘Poetry in Motion: Dance and Movement Arts’. The theme on 12 June was ‘Digital Humanities and the Performing Arts: Building Communities’, and on 13 June ‘ArtiFacts and ArtiFictions: Material Culture and Ephemera’.

The working sessions consisted of exhibition papers, but rather than the usual poster papers, these were slightly shorter papers than those in the plenary sessions, with opportunities for individual discussion. One of the sessions was a panel on recorded performance involving Alexander Street Press, Digital Theatre Plus, Metropolitan Opera, and Jacob’s Pillow.

Finally, there were three receptions: at the headquarters of the Shubert organisation; an official 60th birthday celebration complete with birthday cake at the French consulate, overlooking Central Park; and a more informal reception at the British Consulate, overlooking the Hudson River. Delegates also had time to go to performances, meet up with friends, and discuss such hot topics as databases and authorities working internationally. The greater number of American delegates than usual provided the opportunity to create new links. Europe was reasonably well represented, but there was only one representative from Australia and none from Asia or Africa.

SIBMAS Vice-President and APAC member, Alan Jones from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow, was co-chair of the conference on behalf of SIBMAS (having had previous experience of organising the 2008 SIBMAS Conference in Glasgow). He worked with Nancy Friedland, the local chair from the TLA, and a steering committee that included APAC members Claire Hudson and Ramona Riedzewski. The conference chairs did an excellent job: the venue was convenient and comfortable, the catering excellent, and the sessions kept to time. The full conference programme is available to download here:

Ramona Riedzewski is Archivist and Conservation Manager of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

APAC Members Presenting at SIBMAS/TLA Conference 2014

Body, Mind, Artifact: Reimagining Collections
10-13 June 2014, John Jay College, New York

Plenary Sessions

  • Sophie Johns, Bristol University Theatre Collection: ‘Collector, Object, Researcher: Re-materialising Student Interaction with Physical Artefacts in the Bristol University Theatre Collection’
  • Alan Jones, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: ‘Metamorphosis: The Changing Art in Helping the Performing Arts’
  • Jane Pritchard, Victoria and Albert Museum: ‘Reconstruction, or Simply an Evocation of a Past Dance Work?’

Working Session Papers

  • Hetty Blades, Coventry University: ‘Recording, Revealing, and Reading the Work: The Ontological Implications of Digital Scoring Practices for Dance’
  • Barry Houlihan, Abbey Theatre, Dublin: ‘Facing the Future: Changing Practices in Managing the Performing Arts Archive’
  • Ramona Riedzewski, Victoria and Albert Museum: ‘”Sleep no more”: The UK Performance Database Takes Shape’
  • Sarah Whatley, Coventry University: ‘The Digital Archiving of the Dance Rehearsal Process in Siobhan Davies’ RePlay: Sharing Hidden Knowledge’

Working Session Chairs

  • Alan Jones, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: ‘Databases and Digitization Works’
  • Ramona Riedzewski, Victoria and Albert Museum: ‘Collections and Archives’