Irish theatre critic William John Lawrence (1862-1940) was considered a major figure in documenting the history of Irish theatre.
|William J. Lawrence|
Yet, dozens of his notebooks on Irish theatre history from the 17th-to-20th centuries were never published. Efforts and outreach to make collections stored at the University of Cincinnati and at other institutions accessible worldwide will be presented at the 4th International Conference on Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries. The conference takes place May 22-25 in Limerick, Ireland, and brings together librarians from around the world as they explore best practices on making their resources available for research.
Kevin Grace, head of the UC Archives and Rare Books Library, will present at the conference. Grace says 99 of Lawrence’s unpublished notebooks are stored in UC’s Archives & Rare Books Library. They were purchased from the estate of William Smith Clark II, a former UC English professor and theatre historian, who acquired the notebooks in the 1940s. The notebooks have been housed in the Archives & Rare Books Library since the late 1960s.
The notebooks are considered to be the sole source of Ireland’s theatrical history, since a 1922 fire at the Four Courts Building in Ireland destroyed virtually all of Ireland’s pre-20th century historical records.
“His scores of notebooks on the topic preserved an important aspect of Irish and Anglo-Irish culture, not only in terms of theatres and plays and actors, but also in the culture of cities and towns,” says Grace. “They have not been published in any form, and contain Lawrence’s annotations, summaries of plays, anecdotes on the players, notes on the physical stage and on the staging of particular plays, reviews, images, announcements, biographies and production history.”
Grace says that UC is now reaching out to other institutions to form a cooperative web presence of finding aids for Lawrence holdings. In addition to the collection at UC, 11 of Lawrence’s notebooks are stored at the University of Bristol in England. The National Library of Ireland in Dublin also contains unpublished manuscripts, and there are collections at the New York Public Library and the University of Delaware. “We’re interested in building partnerships with these libraries to create a unified guide to Lawrence’s writings,” Grace says.
By the end of June, UC’s Archives and Rare Books Library plans to launch a website with detailed finding aids to UC’s collection and the other Lawrence collections around the world.
Grace says the web presence would open this history to scholars in a range of fields including urban studies, literature, sociology and theatre history.