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Bringing our performing arts collections online
Australia’s legacy in the performing arts is an extraordinary one, and the National Library’s collection records that legacy. The Library’s holdings include the papers of iconic artists and the archives of performing arts companies. Both authoritative and inspirational, these materials are unparalleled among Australian performing arts collections.
Isaac Wakil AO and the late Susan Wakil AO have been among Australia’s greatest patrons of the arts. Their legacy of giving includes landmark donations to the Art Gallery of NSW and Opera Australia, and generous support for a range of other cultural organisations. Now, with the support of their Foundation, we are bringing key parts of the Library’s unique performing arts collection online.
Thanks to a remarkable gift of $1 million from the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation, the Library is digitising material associated with Australian opera icon Dame Nellie Melba, pioneering dancer, actor, choreographer and stage director Sir Robert Helpmann, and composer and music educator Miriam Hyde, among others. This project will also include extensive selections from the enormous archives of J. C. Williamson Ltd (1874-1976), for nearly a century the dominant theatrical agency in Australia.
This initiative is particularly timely because of the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has had an enormous impact upon the performing arts sector – on artists, and on audiences. In this context, the creation of a new online performing arts resource to inspire both creators and audiences takes on a new importance. In the words of Isaac Wakil AO:
'Susan and I shared a great love of the performing arts, and we took great joy from experiencing the creative work of Australian performing artists over many years. Preserving and sharing these collections online will allow everyone to enjoy these great performances once again, and the Foundation is delighted to work with the National Library to make this project a reality. We hope that it will inspire new generations of creative artists and performers to create wonderful work in the future.'
Digitisation work on this project has begun, and the first of these collections is now beginning to appear on Trove, with much more to come.
We are enormously grateful to the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation for making this project possible.