Monday 1 September 2014 || My postdoctoral research comprises a manuscript collection of more than two hundred eighteenth-century dramas, from varying genres, including comedy, opera, tragedy, and farce, etc. (

When: Monday 1 September 2014
: QA005, Queen Anne Court 
Duration: 20 mins
Time: 19.50 – 20.00
Performance by Isabel Pinto


These plays were copied between 1780 and 1797 by António José de Oliveira, a professional scribe who usually signs his copies, and about whom very little is known, except that he was somehow related to the printing process, as some official documents from the Royal Censorship Council attest.

Among the playwrights, names like Carlo Goldoni, Salomon Gessner, Molière, and Edward Young are easily recognisable. Although digitised, a significant number of the manuscripts remains unpublished and is therefore scarcely read, except, of course, for theatre historians like myself. Recent international initiatives such as “Performing the Archive” ( , and “Living Archives” ( made me aware of a new approach to historical data, based on live experiences with the community, and aiming at bringing cultural heritage into the dynamics of everyday life.

Thus, I have recently engaged in a new practice intertwining performance art and video, so as to take advantage of new media to promote the dissemination, and reinterpretation, of drama manuscripts. As I wish to contend the assumption that archives mainly ask for detachment and disembodiment (Nagler, 1959), my intervention lies within taking manuscripts as artistic input and enhancing how the digital can act upon them in such a way as to give rise to new forms of enactment, and embodiment.

Since digital tools transform still manuscripts into artifacts on the move, 21st century bodies are offered an array of new opportunities to reshape the contours of lived cultural experience. In other words, combining digital tools with archive materials leads to a communication future, where reclaiming the past and questioning the present go hand in hand, fostering a future of high tech humanities.