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Digitizing for the Future

April 01, 2019 School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

Photo by Lisa Metzger

University Libraries receives NEH grant to digitize ARHU alumna’s dance archive.

Liz Lerman '70 is a dance icon and innovator, and the archive of her art is disintegrating. The University of Maryland (UMD) dance alumna has won countless accolades including a MacArthur Genius Award. She pioneered the Critical Response Process, a technique used by everyone from artists to scientists to educators to receive feedback on works-in-progress. Lerman is also the founder of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, an internationally acclaimed dance company.

To combat the risk of losing her astounding archive of dance performances and rehearsals, currently stored at UMD,  the UMD Libraries will digitize videos and document her works made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

With the digitization of her collection, over 1,300 videotaped recordings of rehearsals and performances as well as 211 performance programs will be accessible to a larger community of researchers.

The project started as a pilot,” says Robin Pike, project director and manager of digital conversion and media reformatting at UMD. “We explored how the collection was degrading and discovered that 15 out of 100 tapes had some type of severe damage while many others were beginning to degrade.”

Damage included loss of sound or picture quality. In order to prevent more loss in the future, Pike and Vincent Novara, curator for special collections in performing arts at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, pursued this grant.

This project will reveal a whole lot of important dance material to the artist-scholar community,” says Novara. “We get regular reference requests for Liz’s material. She is a vital and relevant topic.”

(Photo by Lisa Metzger)