Performing the Jewish Archive

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Archives into the Future I

33-01-07/ 5

Costume sketch for a Jewish dance in Arenski’s ballet “Cleopatra” (1910). ©Lessing Archive/British Library Board

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‘Performing the Jewish Archive’ (University of Leeds) ‘Archives into the Future’ is a one-day symposium, a collaboration between the British Library and major new projects funded under the auspices of the Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past’ theme:

  • ‘The Antislavery Usable Past’ (University of Hull)

In association also with ‘Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage’ (University College London).


Registration, tea/coffee available

Opening welcome

  • Richard Chesser (British Library)
  • Andrew Thompson (Theme Leader, AHRC Care for the Future)
  • Steve Muir (PI, ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’)

Five Archival Provocations (chair, Andrew Thompson)

  • Fleur Soper, Louise Piffero (The National Archives): ‘Why arts archives?’
  • Rodney Harrison (Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage): ‘Archives and the Future of Heritage’
  • Helen Finch, Joseph Toltz (Performing the Jewish Archive): ‘Empathy and the Archive’
  • John Oldfield (The Antislavery Usable Past): ‘Gaps in the Archive’
  • Ben Spatz (University of Huddersfield): ‘Judaica: Research in Song-Action’

Discussion sessions, plenary summarisation


Workshop discussions – ‘Fostering creative collaborations between archives, academics, performers and others’

Tea/coffee, plenary summarisation

Drinks reception, official launch of ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’

Performance –
‘Judaica: Research in Song-Action’ (Ben Spatz, Jennifer Parkin, Siobhan Harrison, Nicola Fisher)


The day will open with presentations from these teams and their non-HE partner organisations around the subjects of archives in the future, archives of the future, and the future of archives. Starting from the British Library’s own archival collections relating to Jewish music and theatre and to the Antislavery movement, the focus will broaden to such topics as community archives, charities and non-governmental organisations, archival engagement, performance archives, digital archives, and informal personal archives.

A series of brief ‘provocations’ from leading scholars and practitioners will form the basis of discussion panels: Who owns archives? Who decides what is archived? How are archives created ‘from below’ as well as ‘from above’? What value is placed on the institutional archive by the organisations which created them and in some cases remain their custodians? What is the status of the informal, community or personal archive? What is the future of public engagement with archives? What impact does the digitisation of archives have? What about the archivisation of the digital? How will a record of the past be maintained in an age of electronic communication? These and other questions will provide a platform for a stimulating and provocative day tailored to the interests of those who attend.

The day will also feature the formal launch of ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’.

A performance will be presented by the ‘Judaica: Research in Song-Action’ project (Ben Spatz, University of Huddersfield). ‘Judaica: Research in Song-Action’ is a joint project of Urban Research Theater (New York City) and The Centre for Psychophysical Performance Research (University of Huddersfield, UK). Spatz and colleagues will present a short song cycle demonstrating their embodied research on the technical and epistemic dimensions of Jewish song.

Early-career researchers and doctoral students are particularly welcome, and there will be sessions geared especially towards their needs and requirements.

The event is free, including refreshments, lunch, and a closing reception/performance. Space is therefore limited and attendance is by application.

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