Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council supports collaborative project with $163,000 award
BY REBECCA KENDALL
One year after the unveiling of U of G’s Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), the largest and most sophisticated website in the world dedicated to showing Shakespeare’s cultural influence on a nation, Guelph has signed a unique memorandum of understanding with the Stratford Festival of Canada to create a new hybrid website that combines CASP and the vast holdings of the Festival’s archives.
Adding momentum to the project is an award of $163,000 announced two weeks ago by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The agreement, which creates a formal partnership between Guelph and Stratford, states that together they will create the world’s most advanced site devoted to teaching Shakespeare, says Prof. Daniel Fischlin, English and Theatre Studies, who designed and manages the CASP website, located at www.canadianshakespeares.ca.
“The idea is to produce a site that will play to every possible audience from grade school and high school students to post-secondary and longtime learners to theatre aficionados at an international level,” he says.
Stratford’s director of information technology, Darina Griffin, approached Fischlin last September after the CASP website caught her eye.
“To function in an Internet marketplace, we need to create hubs that are intelligently partnered,” says Griffin, who notes that 85 per cent of the Festival’s patrons are university-educated and that collaborating with a university is a logical move. Making the choice even more obvious, she says, is the existence of the CASP website.
“The work that Daniel has done is so far ahead of anything currently out there on the web that it seemed like a brilliant partnership. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with his ability to envision the future. He’s really a powerful, creative mind.”
The Stratford Festival, now in its 53rd year, is currently storing countless artifacts that have been collected since the 1960s, including images, memos between staff about various production plans, costumes, props, stage plans, tapes of rehearsals and music.
The task of the website team is to go through the vast collection, sort through the archives and decide what to present online.
“Objects of major importance to Canada’s national heritage are buried in vaults that nobody has looked at for a very long time,” says Griffin. “We’re proposing the digitization of these objects for the purposes of long-term preservation, as well as to provide a curatorial component to various educational materials that will have the Internet reach. It’s very exciting.”
Fischlin’s expertise will be applied to Stratford’s archives, along with input from a group at the University, to prepare the context for teaching modules.
In return, a team from Stratford will create the framework to present the content in a format that will be useful to the target audience – teachers and students – by providing access to the Festival’s archival and performance resources. This will allow the new hybrid site to bring together analytical, historical and performance materials in an integrated teaching site and virtual learning commons.
Fischlin says there is also potential for U of G to create international distance education courses through the site, as well as educational games for students of all ages.
“People will be able to access the site and play these games and not necessarily know that they’re receiving advanced literacy skills based on Shakespearean vocabulary and contexts,” he says.
A prototype of the site is expected to be up and running by the end of May.