Buried treasure: rediscovering the Lord Chamberlain's collection of plays

Project start date: 2005-09 Project end date: 2008-12
The project began upon the long-overdue cataloguing of the Lord Chamberlain's collection from 1852 onwards. The pilot covered the decade to 1863. The collection for that period numbers about 3000 plays, including for example the British versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin and many farces and pantomimes with political implications around issues such as first-wave feminism. Cultured mid-Victorians agreed with G. H. Lewes that 'drama is extinct as literature' and ignored the new performance culture; these plays have therefore never been considered in either literary or social histories. The project aimed to make them more available for study, and to that end included key-wording of texts for catalogue searching, an innovation in the British Library Manuscript Catalogue. A spin-off project has been the transcription of interesting unpublished texts and their publication on the Royal Holloway website, which is ongoing.
Methods usedCategory
Audio interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Audio-visual interaction (synchronous)Communication and collaboration
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
Collaborative publishingData publishing and dissemination
CollatingData analysis
Content analysisData analysis
DocumentationStrategy and project management
General project managementStrategy and project management
General website developmentData publishing and dissemination
Iterative designStrategy and project management
Manual input and transcriptionData capture
Searching and queryingData analysis
Security planningStrategy and project management
System quality assurance and code testingStrategy and project management
Textual interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Textual interaction (synchronous)Communication and collaboration
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Content types created: 
Software tools used: 
  • Acrobat Distiller
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Microsoft Word
Source material used:  
The Lord Chamberlain's Collection. The British Library is the repository for all the manuscripts submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office between 1824 and 1968, the end of dramatic licensing. The manuscripts are often unique copies of unpublished plays; many are in poor condition.
Digital resource created:  
The resource created was a contribution to the British Library Manuscripts Catalogue, and has no separate URL from theirs. Ten years of entries (several thousand) were created. This involved identifying and describing the plays in the collection from 1852-1863, and contributing key words for all these texts which are also searchable in the catalogue.
Access to digital resource:  
Open Access
A special issue of the journal Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, Winter 2009, is devoted to the project and associated research outcomes.

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
Royal Holloway
University of London
Other institutions involved:
The British Library

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Jacqueline Bratton, Kathryn Johnson
Other staff:Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:

Metadata on this arts-humanities.net record
Author(s) of recordJacky Bratton
TitleBuried treasure: rediscovering the Lord Chamberlain's collection of plays
Record created2010-09-30
Record updated2010-09-30 15:57
URL of recordhttp://www.arts-humanities.net/node/3647
Citation of recordJacky Bratton: Buried treasure: rediscovering the Lord Chamberlain's collection of plays. <http://www.arts-humanities.net/node/3647> created: 2010-09-30, last updated 2010-09-30 15:57

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