Performing digital–multiple perspectives on a living archive

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review


The ‘living archive’ seems like an archivist’s holy grail, implying an archive that will evolve, adapt and endure over time. Recently a team in Melbourne built the Circus Oz Living Archive, an online archive that started with the video recordings of 30 years of performances by this seminal Australian performing arts company. This book tells the story of building the Living Archive. Organised in three parts, Performing Digital explains the nuts and bolts of technically making the archive, first setting those decisions in a wider context about the meaning and experience of digital archives, followed up with reflections on using the Living Archive and other digital archives. The Living Archive is important for archivists as an example of a participatory archive. User contributions are treated as records on an equal footing with the recordings of performances.This demonstrates an equal commitment by the designers to both users and authentic reliable records, a commitment that is followed through in the structure of the online database. Visitors to the website can sign in and contribute their recollections and reflections using the prompts‘I wasn’t there but’ or ‘I was there and’. So in this way, the Living Archive delivers on its promise as a participatory archive. It will continue to take in new recollections from past performers and audiences, and, over time, there will also be recollections and reflections from users of the archive.There are some affirmations and provocations here for archivists. Projects like this that invoke ‘the archive’ seldom include archivists, although interestingly,co-lead David Carlin describes the project as inflected ‘with tactical forays into the knowledge domains of adjacent fields’, including archival studies (p. 233). But the list of experts on the project does not include an archivist.So, now to turn to what Performing Digital affirms and provokes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-169
Number of pages3
JournalArchives and Manuscripts
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017


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