It is a uniquely flexible tool to preserve the depth of artists’ and directors’ back catalogues, such as that of stage designer Brian Thomson. He is perhaps best known for his stage designs for The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Hundreds of records now hosted by AusStage show the global extent of his artistic influence, spanning Sweden, Perth and the Bahamas, to Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre.
As a record of a lucrative creative industry, AusStage also informs investment in arts organisations all over the country. And that’s more significant than you might think – the Australian performing arts sector produced $1.4 billion in ticket sales in 2015 alone, making it a greater revenue generator than sporting events.
With more than two decades of experience working on performing arts databases, Fewster has spent the last 15 years raising millions of dollars in funding to keep AusStage growing.
“Our current known partnerships are with 14 academics at various universities,” she says. “Historians also use AusStage, because it can provide social context to any period of Australian history.”
Key collaborators tasked with uploading countless newspaper articles and reviews, collections of ephemera, photographs and programs include universities and regional museums, the National Library of Australia and members of the vast Australian online library-database aggregator, Trove.
“Obviously with reviews copyright is still a major issue, but if they’re available in Trove, copyright is cleared, so we leave a link back to the article in Trove,” says Fewster.
“And in some cases where people think it’s really important to have it embedded, we’ll embed it in the database as well. It’s a multipronged approach. We’re not really prescriptive about everything having to be done in a certain way.