Announcing the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive

I am excited to share the Music Division’s latest web archive collection, the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive! This collection contains websites and select social media to document professional networks in the performing arts over time. The collection items are those of professional, labor, and advocacy organizations at regional, national, and international levels. Its initial batch of 85 archived websites is ready for you to explore in our digital collections. By the summer, expect at least 100! My seed list for the collection is quite large – over 500 unique URLs.

Screenshot of a September 12, 2005 capture of the Actors’ Equity Association website in the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive. Note the news on the homepage about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the theater community. This particular capture is incidental (incomplete), but captures from May 2020 onward are deeper crawls.

Our recently launched Performing Arts Web Archive and the LC Commissioned Composers Web Archive both have quite specific scopes. By contrast, I planned for the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive to be the Music Division’s largest web archive to date and potentially for the foreseeable future. In a way, I think it’ll serve as another “heavy lifter” type of web archive collection akin to the Public Policy Topics Web Archive administered by the Researcher and Reference Services Division. Meaning, that the breadth of subjects and applied fields represented in the collection will become its hallmark value for researchers.

Why would this collection be big from the get-go? Think about how broad the performing arts are as a field and the many subfields within them: music, dance, musical and straight theater, composition, songwriting, theory, publishing, and education. Now, consider how all of those areas intersect with some of these topics, among others:

Second, the Music Division collects and documents these many areas on an international scale, so limiting URLs to US-only wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of our work – not to mention that the performing arts don’t exist in vacuums dictated by geographic borders. So, the networks are international in scope down to the national and regional ones that contribute to those larger missions.

Isn’t it convenient, then, that the Internet is also called “the Web,” the perfect visual for points of networked intersections? That also speaks to the archival appraisal principle I’ve used as the basis of creating this collection in the first place: interrelatedness. Interrelatedness is one of the foundational characteristics of archives – they connect to each other through common creators, places of creation, formats, patterns of use, descriptive terminology, and other ways. Interrelatedness can exist within a single collection, across collections at the same repository, and across collections of separate repositories. This applies to analog and born-digital archives!

Here’s an example from the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive to illustrate interrelatedness through hierarchies:

An example of interrelatedness through shared subjects, a lateral relationship rather than a hierarchical one, is:

Screenshot of a March 4, 2020 capture of the website of La Traversière in the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive. The looping video on the homepage replays in the Wayback. This screenshot has the video paused on Franco-Swiss flutist Emmanuel Pahud performing.

Another archival value at play with the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive is evidentiary value. Archives can serve as proof that an action, policy, or creative act occurred or that a person, group, or organization existed. Many of the organizations’ websites in this collection only exist on the web because they are virtual communities, and nearly all of the organizations with official records in this web archive collection have repositories that are not the Library of Congress. Therefore, the Library of Congress might receive published works by the organization if they’re submitted for copyright registration, but not the information that details how they planned their conferences, a list of past awardees, or embedded videos of free webinars. So, this web archive also serves as a snapshot of proof of their existence and activities. This is even more vital for documenting organizations that do not keep official records because of the spirit in which they were established.

Screenshot of a September 13, 2002 incidental capture (incomplete – homepage only) of the College Band Directors National Association website. Captures from June 2020 onward are deeper crawls. This is an example of an organization whose official records are at another institution (Special Collections in Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, College Park).

Enjoy exploring this collection, and I hope you keep revisiting it as it grows exponentially over time! I especially hope that you see how the performing arts are part of the larger fabric of society, from education to labor organizing and more. If you need help using any of the Music Division’s web archive collections, reach out through Ask a Librarian!

2 Comments

  1. John Jenks
    May 4, 2021 at 11:47 am

    I manage the State Department music diplomacy program, American Music Abroad. I would be pleased if this program is listed in your archive. The web address is https://americanmusicabroad.org. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    • Melissa Wertheimer
      May 4, 2021 at 12:30 pm

      Thank you for reading and for suggesting this website for the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive. The American Music abroad website doesn’t quite fit the scope of this collection. I will pass your suggestion along to other LC colleagues to see if it fits any of their web archive collections.

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