Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection

The Federal Theatre Project was a Works Progress Administration program active from 1935–1939.  The Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection was originally discovered in 1974 in a Library of Congress storage facility and soon moved to George Mason University in Virginia.  The materials in the collection include posters, set and costume designs, and original scripts.  The online version of the collection contains JPEG images taken from 35mm color slides, the result of a preservation effort begun in the early 1980's, and is hosted on the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC).

The presentation of the collection is very basic.  Through a broken link at one page, it's clear that the FTP collection was built in Greenstone.  Many of the image description pages list an available date of December 2002.  So, the online collection is 7 to 8 years old now, and the site design reflects that.  Sadly, little technical information is given about either the slide photography process or the digital scanning process used.  

Browsing the collection is broken down into the following eight categories:  title, creators, subjects, theaters, places, dates, related names, and series.  Browsing the series category shows 388 costume and set design items, 22 FTP scripts, and 598 poster slides.  Each item page in the collection gives sufficient descriptive metadata and provides a thumbnail to view a larger version of the image.  Clicking on the larger image link opens a new window where the digitized slides are displayed using a very simple DSpace viewer.  The only information available on the larger image is where the original item resides.  No zoom function, or other tool is available to inspect the images or documents further.  The 22 scripts are actually PDFs.  Clicking on a larger version of the scripts simply opens or downloads the PDF according to your browser settings.

The collection offers a great look into design styles of the era.  As expected, many posters have an Art Deco feel.  For that reason, the site could be valuable to some researchers of that era, or to those interested in local theater design and popular poster art of the time.

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