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(Interview with Jack Wolcott, continued)

As we examined the hundreds of plays in the collection, we found over 350 woodcuts and engravings, many by noted 19th century artists. The texts were extremely fragile, in some cases nearly one hundred fifty years old, and printed on cheap low-grade paper. Still, with the blessings of the Library, we scanned each image electronically, to preserve and to be able to work with them without further stress to the source materials. Each woodcut and engraving was analyzed, and the information entered into a database. It was now possible to ask, for example, to see all the engravings which showed a scene of landscape, with the sea in the distance; or an interior scene with three women and two men; or to see all the engravings executed by a specific artist. The database would find these, and they could be displayed on the computer monitor.

The research engendered by the text database and image library was fascinating. Here again, the medium of communication was the website. Graduate student researchers developed additions to The 19th Century London Stage which included "Artists and Engravers," "Representations of Theatre Interiors," "Women in 19th Century Drama and Engravings;" "Representation of Landscapes in Theatrical Engravings," "Punch and the 19th Century London Stage"and "Representations of India and Indian Culture."

As it progressed, this new research was incorporated by me and Dr. Joan Robertson, an information scientist working in the University of Washington division of Health Sciences into The 19th Century London Stage. Dr. Robertson left the University in 1997 and I retired the following year, bringing all of this work to a halt.

L.C.: No one has continued with this research?

JRW: So far as I know, no one at the University of Washington has expressed interest in this material since I retired. This doesn't surprised me: few expressed much interest in our projects while we were developing them. I suppose if I had expected otherwise I would be embittered by this, but I long ago discovered that the role of an academic discipline is to protect itself from change. Why should theatre historians be different from others?

To my knowledge, nothing of our work has ever been reported in a theatre journal, although it is readily available in computer publications. The Florimène material, which I have made available for the asking to any who wish it, has been used throughout the world, and The 19th Century London Stage is linked to a great many sites on the WWW as a Victorian studies resource.

Perhaps someday a scholar with an interest in the 19th century stage will come to the University of Washington and take up where we left off. Much of the "landscape" we discovered is yet to be explored.

Seattle, Washington U.S.A. 2001


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[One of the many engravings in the collection. Three quarter size.]