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The AustLit Australian Drama Archive

(Status : Public)
Coordinated by Australian Drama Archive
  • Welcome to the Australian Drama Archive

  • The Australian Drama Archive Project is a digitisation project publishing plays and research relating to writers working in the period before the 1960s.

    Explore the links on the left to discover some fabulous Australian plays

    Background and plans: 

    Collaborators at The University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of New England (UNE) aims to digitise and research a collection of Australian plays from the twentieth century up to the 1960s and bring them to life again through publication, production, and new research. was established in 2016 with initial funding support from the Ian Potter Foundation. It remains a work-in-progress and will continue developing over the next few years. Come back regularly for updates and new plays.

    The researchers at UQ are:

    • Kerry Kilner, Director of AustLit
    • Dr Stephen Carleton, playwright and senior lecturer in Australian theatre
    • Dr Bernadette Cochrane, lecturer in theatre

    The project has also benefited from the help of UQ student scholars who have helped with research, digitisation and content development.

    Working with the Hanger Collection at the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland, we are gradually selecting, digitising, and working through copyright clearance to enable publication and production.  High-achieving UQ-based students are researching the lives and careers of the playwrights and the production histories of the plays.

    UQ Drama Script Club

    Script Club is a UQ Drama initiative that involves students and staff in the exhuming of “forgotten classics” from the Australian drama archive, and re-presenting them as staged readings for an invited audience. Our aims are to contribute to an industry-wide conversation focused on examining questions of legacy and canonicity, and building upon drama's central place within Australia's literary corpus. In reviving these forgotten or under-acknowledged Australian works, we offer them to fresh audiences for study and performance into the future.

    The first play to receive a rehearsed reading in March 2018 was Dorothy Blewett's I Have Taken a Prisoner which has been published by AustLit as a part of the Australian Drama Archive.

    Student Productions

    Our collaboration with the UQ Drama Department has led to a bi-annual performance of the plays in the collection. In 2016, students taking the course 'Live Theatre Production: Performance Creation and Event Management' (DRAM2200) produced Dorothy Blewett's The First Joanna and in 2018 two one-act plays are to be produced: Kester Berwick's Judgement Day and Catherine Shepherd's Delphiniums. The students work together to produce the plays and undertake research of the plays, playwrights, and the historical and theatre history contexts of the plays. 

    Student Participation in the Research

    Since the beginning of the project student researchers have participated in the digitisiation, transcription, research, and publication process of the plays included in the Australian Drama Archive. See the Acknowledgements for a full list of student contributors.

    Meanwhile at UNE

    have selected plays from the Campbell Howard Collection of plays held in the Dixson Library. These plays will progressively be transcribed and added to the AustLit collection and made accessible.

    Navigate to pages about the plays, playwrights, and research outcomes by clicking on the links at the left.

  • Methodology

    The Australian Drama Archive has been compiled using a number of different methods. The selection of plays was undertaken by assessing copyright status and knowledge about the estates of the included authors. Once it was determined that the plays could be digitised they were scanned and in most cases run through an OCR (optical character recognition) process which generated a plain text file that was subsequently corrected. In some cases the OCR text was so bad, due to the poor quality of the original manuscript, we determined it was best to manually transcribe the text. This is a tedious and very time-consuming process and we are grateful to a number of student research interns who have assisted with the process since 2016. 

  • With gratitude to our generous supporters


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