Performing Arts in the Coronavirus Web Archive: Part 2

This post was originally written by , a Music Reference Specialist at the Library of Congress, for In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog.


In Part 1 of this series, I walked readers through Coronavirus Web Archive items within the theme of financial relief efforts in the performing arts. This second post focuses on medical and public health initiatives specific to the performing arts.

From the beginning of the pandemic, a major question swept through the performing arts community: how and when can we perform together safely? As both a flutist and contributor to the Library’s Coronavirus Web Archive, I kept close tabs on any progress that could be made on that front right alongside the range of people active in the performing arts: public school music educators, dance companies, military bands, community choirs, undergraduate theater majors, and more. Scientists answered the call, and I observed that the same list of emerging studies and initiatives kept cropping up across performing arts communities. The Coronavirus Web Archive documents those efforts over the course of the pandemic. Remember, vocalists, dancers, actors, and instrumentalists inhale and exhale far differently in performance than they do in daily life; these studies were landmarks because they focused on performing arts populations in those environments. Many changes audiences and performers have seen during the return to live performance during the pandemic were recommendations from these studies, such as plexiglass barriers, air filtration time between rehearsals, increased physical distancing on stage, specialized masks, and instrument covers.

A major aerosol study that focused on the performing arts was the National Federation of State High School Associations: International Coalition on Performing Arts Aerosol Study. This was a collaborative commission from over 125 performing arts education organizations to study the transmission of COVID-19 aerosols in school band, choir, and orchestra performance settings. The labs for the study were at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Maryland. The first preliminary findings were shared online in July 2020. In the web archive captures, you’ll see new content added over time such as embedded videos of presentations, PDF files, descriptive text, and infographics.

Screen shot of November 18, 2020 capture of the NFHS aerosol study information page in the Coronavirus Web Archive

Screen shot of November 18, 2020 capture of the NFHS aerosol study information page in the Coronavirus Web Archive

Screen shot of the NFHS aerosol study information page on the live Web taken on March 9, 2022

Screen shot of the NFHS aerosol study information page on the live Web taken on March 9, 2022

Colorado State University initiated a multi-disciplinary study of bioaerosol emissions in group dance, theater, and music performances, Reducing Bioaerosol Emissions and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID19. The preliminary results were posted online in August 2020, with updates posted until the final published paper in November 2021. The Coronavirus Web Archive helps you track when PDF documents were posted online for the public, as well as updates to the study’s supporters listed online.

The Army Band at West Point shared their own findings and strategies in order to perform at the United States Military Academy’s graduation ceremony in June 2020. The report Army Band COVID-19 Risk Mitigation for Large Groups and uploaded files, such as a stage plot document, were updated through September 2020 by the West Point Music Research Center.

An article that combines information literacy with public health and instrumentalists is Wind Musicians’ Risk Assessment in the Time of COVID-19 from physicians at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. This article includes an embedded video from the International Double Reed Society’s 1st Virtual Symposium held in July 2020, “COVID-19 Risk Assessment for Wind Instrumentalists.” Information literacy, a vital component of the librarianship field, has risen to the fore with the amount of misinformation and disinformation during the pandemic. (For such examples in the Coronavirus Web Archive, see archived captures of NewsGuard’s Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center.) The authors specifically call attention to two studies from Europe about instrumentalists early in the pandemic. The studies did not undergo peer review and proliferated poor information. The physicians also describe what instrumentalists should look for in reliable scientific studies in order to be properly informed.

Screen shot of the ICSOM home page on August 9, 2020 in the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive

Screen shot of the ICSOM home page on August 9, 2020 in the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive

In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that the Professional Organizations for Performing Arts Web Archive is an important supplement to the Coronavirus Web Archive for those who wish to study the impact of the pandemic on the performing arts. This also applies to the theme of public health and scientific studies. For example, an August 9, 2020 capture of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) website includes news related to health and science. One of the resources, “Orchestral Safety Plans: A First Look” was written by ICSOM Counsel Kevin Case for the August 2020 issue of ICSOM’s online publication Senza Sordino. The homepage also linked to a PDF file of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics online article I mentioned earlier in this post. Again, the web archives demonstrate the general circulation of similar resources during the pandemic.

Captures of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) website serve as evidence that IADMS presented two webinars in Spring 2020 for dance educators: “Safe Dance Practice in Quarantine” and “Conditioning for Dance during COVID-19: Strength, Power, Endurance, and Speed.” Web archives of the International Association for Blacks in Dance (IABD) include publicly available minutes for a March 2020 town hall that detail how health and safety measures were central to the conversation.

Another way to use this collection for COVID research is by looking at websites of organizations that sponsored the aerosol studies I discussed earlier in the post. For example, look at captures of the High School Band Director’s National Association (HSBDNA) website. What do you learn about their role in the NFHS study and how findings were communicated to members? Is there evidence of reports or task forces? How does this archived information compare to the live Web?

Stay tuned for the final post in this series.

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