or the Past in the Future
In the beginning, I would like to share with you the “the first stroke” of my personal elaboration on the theme of memory; some of it based on my research of this subject, some is part of that which is called self-knowledge, and some of it is more artistic than scholarly.
To remember means to dream.
To remember means to know.
To remember means to have a lucid approach to that which has been.
In the system of the memory of a specific culture and its organized gathering of its fundamental achievements, memories are situated in concrete and precisely determined spaces: museums, archives, institutes. In all these spaces the past is stored in a serious and responsible manner.
Theatre memory is not merely the personal memory cherished by an individual, be that an actor, director, set designer, playwright, spectator or critic. Just like the theatre itself, theatre memory is a collection of personal and official memories which is multiple and multi-layered. Therefore, provoked by this theme which is the subject mater of our Conference, I decided to write about theatre museology from the inside and directly, both as an individual and a professional. More specifically, I decided to write about its new face and the ways in which an established system of archiving cultural heritage is activated in present-day conditions – in the period of global digitalization. The possibilities that digitalization offers to a museum, that is, to the theatre museum carry/convey/transport /propel the past into the future. Research has been done on several specific museum exhibitions, and it also included the personal efforts in this domain that focused on certain collections kept at the Institute of Theatrology of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje. Our research also included the online collections of the Theatre Museum in London, the existing exhibitions of MHAT and other prominent theatre houses, as well as classical museum collections of the theatre museums in Belgrade and Sofia. The direct involvement and inclusion not only in the process of observation, but also in the process of the creation of the object of study generated a specific context in which this study is transposed.
From here to there…memory
Theatre needs memory. Memory extends the life of the theatrical act. If a complete collective memory is absent (not in the psychological context generally known as collective memory), theatre, too, will vanish. The competence of theatre memory is in its collective nature and in the possibility to use more different sources in order to present the exceptional work of art. The theatrical performance which does not include only theatre as drama, but all other performing arts as well, should be guarded and archived in a specific way which is dictated by the basic means of expression of the given art form. As it says in the introduction of the catalogue of the permanent exhibition of the Theatre Museum at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, “The theatre is magic and alive. Theatre is performance: all kinds of performance – opera and pantomime, music and ballet, circus and variety show, magic and mime.” (Schouvaloft, 1987:4). And all this in contrast to its finality, ephemerality ans transience. With the dropping of the curtain and the bowing of the actors the end of the theatrical act is inevitable. The Theatre Museum in London is one of the most famous in the world. In the old and noble and, let me say, recognizable English style, it collects he memories of an entire great theatrical culture. A culture aware of its tradition, such as the English one, sees in this museum the last home of the theatrical artifacts, and especially those on which time has taken its toll. Such views of the world and art in general are traditional and, allow me to say, conservative; however, such is also the system they apply in the collecting of theatre artifacts: simple, precise, material, classical, traditional and, let me say again, conservative.
Why do I begin here, from this museum and from this memory and this theatre? Because it is from here that somehow the attitude to the theatre and the museum begins to be articulated and adjusted; this makes possible not only the gathering, but also studying and researching of this type of material. It does not allow the artistic artifact to die but, instead, enables its further use, of course, in completely different circumstances. The same catalogue I quoted above also states that “ memory joined with entertainment has always been special and evocative.” I would like to emphasize a well known and generally accepted fact, and that is that remembering, memory and recollection have always been the theatre’s direct allies, especially if they have been given an official form, as in a museum. Something that is about to disappear, vanish or end needs something that is final, long-living and endless. That is why the connection between the theatre and memory is immediate and constant. On the other hand, there is also the awareness of “new forms” (Chekhov) which includes not only the theatre, but also the manner in which its elements are collected/gathered. Therefore I would like to begin a comparative analysis of the problem, starting from a classical exhibition presented in a typical building, with classical artifacts dated and exhibited in a manner known before hand, and the new method of presentation of this very same, traditional museum on the Internet, completely accessible to all those who are interested. Naturally, in contrast to the already known presentations of the largest and most representative digital museum collections, such as that of the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg on the Internet, designed in collaboration with one of the largest computer companies in the world, IBM, as well as that of the Museum of the Holocaust in New York, this collection in London, as well as those from other traditional theatre museums, is simpler and serves only to acquaint the visitor with the collection, and does not necessarily include its presentation. The two representative digital museums that I have mentioned above have transformed completely their artifacts from material into digital and have thus transformed the medium of their presentation. IBM has designed a special tool for the search of the museum’s collections intended only for the virtual digital world. Its acronym is QBIC (Query By Image Content). It is a search engine which helps in the finding of the requested artifact and makes possible its viewing in various formats and positions (two- and three dimensional images, different backgrounds, analysis of small details, maximum zooming, etc.) The entire digital/virtual museum is designed to offer more possibilities than the standard museum exhibits and, at the same time, to demonstrate that side of technology which is focused on the advancement of art. Therefore the focus of this paper is on the new face of theatre museology, the possibilities it offers and the inventive and innovative ways of its presentation.