Touchstone Theatre Digital Archive

The work of archiving half of Touchstone’s extensive digital, document and object collection was completed in April 2021 and resulted in archiving over 4 terabytes of video and 40 gigabytes of documents and photos, secured costumes, set designs, and large puppets (as big as an elephant) in long- term storage (see photo of specially dedicated space for the archival work). Three graduate students put in over 150 hours of scanning, labeling, and digitization, and we are about half-way through that task.

Founded in 1976 as People’s Theatre Company, and then changing its name to Touchstone Theatre in 1981, Touchstone has generated hundreds of original theatre creations, news stories, original musical works, visual images, costumes, puppets and objects of art – all in response to its region, the meaning of living in this place – Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, the United States, and the needs of the people of our Valley. Productions have touched upon Black immigration; Lenni Lenape mythologies and histories; the Latino/Anglo divide; changing demographics (particularly in relation to the increasing Asian population); concerns of working people (our first production in 1976, called Working, was drawn from interviews of teachers, waitresses, steel executives and labor organizers). The video (VHS, S- VHS, Beta, 8mm, Super 8, ¾ inch, reel to reel, DVD, CD, mini-DV), audio (cassette, DVD, digital tape, CD), visual documentation (color slides, large and small format photographs, posters, programs, key marketing materials, color and black and white negatives), and actual physical items from these story and art generation activities are now organized and kept together in their specially designated rooms.

This proposal supported two “faculty” members (Jp Jordan, Artistic Director of Touchstone and Adjunct Professor at Moravian College and Bill George, theatre artist and Founder of Touchstone Theatre) to oversee and carry out the work of curating, digitization and cataloging. The digital archive now lives on hard drives at Touchstone Theatre, continues to grow larger every week, and we will soon be establishing a second version at the Lehigh University site for public access. Ilhan Citak is overseeing the shaping of the archive work in order for it to live in the LU archive home.

The Archives Room, now established at Touchstone, where digitization and cataloging take place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.