The Wolanski Foundation Project


Paper no 13 part 1









List of papers









By Paul Bentley

December 2000


Article originally published in Online Currents, January/February 2001 and reprinted with kind permission of the publishers Enterprise Information Management Pty Ltd. 



Libraries, archives and museums


Information about the performing arts in Australia can be elusive.  Although computers, the Internet and government-led initiatives have been influential in improving online access to off-line sources in the last decade, the telephone, in many instances, is the best online route.

The performing arts is a term invented in the 1950s and is now usually applied as a collective concept for theatre, music, dance, opera, radio, film, television, puppetry, circus, vaudeville, variety and kindred forms of entertainment. The connections are obvious, but the differences are important. They function differently, have different histories and literatures, and generate different information management needs and approaches.

The industry is commercial and subsidized, local and global, professional and amateur.  It recycles its product as a matter of course and draws on information from other industries, times and places. What happened in the Globe Theatre in 1599 may inform tomorrow’s Hollywood movie. Beethoven’s manuscripts may provide the spark and subtlety for next years international recording venture. An interior of a 1789 Sydney Town mud hut may be required to create make-believe on a stage in Wagga Wagga.

This article is an overview of online sources and issues for live forms – theatre, dance and music - in Australia. It doesn’t discuss international websites and databases – such as International Directory of the Performing Arts, Music Index and Arts and Humanities Citation Index - and commercial Australian database sources. These may the subject of a separate article.

Web addresses for many of the organisations and projects mentioned have not been included. Links can found via a reputable search engine or from the pages of the Wolanski Foundation at



The Australian performing arts is a $416 million sector in an $8.5 billion cultural industry, with about 880 music and theatre businesses producing 68,994 paid Australian performances a year.  

The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) and Cultural Ministers Council are important initiators of policy and information. In recent years, DCITA has encouraged and developed on-line and digital information products and services like Stage Struck, Performing Arts Digital Library Pilot Project and a CD ROM, the Digital Environment.

Many performing arts organisations now have websites which act as promotional tools rather than fully powered e-commerce solutions. Some of them have educational programs that generate Web information sources and interactive learning experiences.

Research and educational interests are shaped by the work of the Australian Research Council; the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee and various academic groups, such as those currently consolidating under the umbrella of the Australian National Coalition for Creative Arts.

Projects & products


A project in progress at Flinders University under the management of South Australian academic, Joh Hartog, author of The computerized gaze and the performing arts (Australasian Drama Studies April 1998).  Funded by an Australian Research Council grant and supported by the Australasian Drama Studies Association, the Council of the Heads of Australian University Theatre Studies Institutions and Museum Australia’s Performing Arts Special Interest Group, it aims to create a national database of current and past events of theatre, dance, opera, music and associated forms.

The Digital Environment

A CD ROM containing papers and video clips about intellectual property, preservation, the digital economy, connectivity and other issues relevant to Australia’s culture and its use of new technologies. Available from DCITA.

Performing Arts Multimedia Library (PAML) Pilot Project

A $1 million joint initiative of Cinemedia, Multimedia Victoria and the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts, completed in 1999, to explore legal, technical and business issues, encourage organisations to record their performances and create a digital collection of significant Australian performing arts material.  Its legacies are From Live Performance to Digital Stage, a guide to contracting and copyright management of digital recordings, available free from the PAML website, and a copyright management system, SWIFT - developed in tandem with the project - to provide multiple and simultaneous access, track usage, control copyright restrictions and automatically distribute royalties via commercial delivery networks, nationally, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Stage Struck

A CD-ROM on stage production, produced by the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, Opera Australia, Australian Ballet, Sydney Opera House and University of Wollongong as part of the federal government’s Australian on CD program. Offers interactive sections on scriptwriting, music, movement, and dance, stage design and other production tools and techniques.  Also provides a wealth of information on the performing arts in Australia.  Stage Struck has won numerous internal awards including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award and Golden European Multimedia Award for interactivity in 1998. Copies may be ordered from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts.



An online gateway initiated by DCITA. Provides access to information on cultural grants, training opportunities and industry development programs offered by Australian governments, corporations, foundations and non-government bodies. Also provides practical advice on issues such as establishing cultural businesses, statistics, training courses, on-line tutorials, cultural industry publications and a directory of cultural businesses.  



A service and advocacy organisation representing dancers, choreographers, writers, artists, students and the general public. Its website has links and contact details for all dance companies in Australia  


Australia Council  

Australian arts policy, research and funding body. Recent research and publications have been produced on the arts economy, arts marketing and Australian attitudes to the arts. Fuel4arts, a website for artists and arts managers to develop marketing skills, was launched a couple of years ago and includes arts marketing case studies, bibliographies and links to Internet resources.  


Australian Bureau of Statistics  

Source of industry statistics and demographics relevant to the performing arts in Australia, sometimes produced in collaboration with the Cultural Ministers Council.  


Australian Cultural Network 

An Internet gateway initiated and managed by DCITA. Promotes public access to collections, activities and events in cultural institutions. The site includes local and international cultural and technical resource guides to assist in developing online strategies, use of metadata, directories to databases, catalogues and Internet discussion groups.  


Australian Entertainment Industry Association  

Employer body in the arts and entertainment industry. Hosts awards to honour Australian achievements in theatre, ballet and opera. Oncue online, its official website includes information on shows, venues, celebrity profiles, world entertainment news and jobs.  


Australian Drama Studies Centre  

Academic site offering information on teaching, publishing, research and professional activities of English teaching staff of the University of Queensland, including the Australasian Drama Studies Association. Has registers of theatre researchers and topics, links to Australasian Drama Studies Journal and other resources, and research projects undertaken by faculty members - such as From Page to Stage: an annotated bibliography of Australian drama..  


Music Council of Australia  

National peak body which aims to advance Australian musical life. Resources include directories of Australian music organisations, music periodicals and publications.  


Go to part 2 Libraries, archives and museums



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