Brighthope, Brierfield, Alabama

From Birmingham News, 30 June 1974.

From Birmingham News, 30 June 1974.

The first state on our journey across the United States is Alabama. Brighthope was performed in Brierfield, Alabama beginning in 1978 as a cooperative effort by Bibb County Heritage Foundation and University of Montevallo. The drama, written by Kermit Hunter, depicts the birth of the iron industry in Alabama between 1815 and 1865. The story begins with the discovery of iron ore and limestone by white men. By 1848, Brierfield is a booming town, the third largest in the state, with the success of Brighthope Furnace, which produced about 12 tons of iron each day. Unfortunately, the Civil War sees the Furnace bombarded by Union soldiers and taken by the US government as a spoil of war. The Furnace is sold to General Josiah Gorgas and the Canebrake Company, with the promise of being rebuilt and leading the way in Alabama’s iron industry. Hunter sought inspiration from both history books and local legend. Read more

Reel Life

Now that the condition reports have been completed for all video and audio components within the collection, Ashley and I have moved on to rehousing the media into appropriate archival homes. In order to provide an acid free environment for the audio and film, this often means replacing both the storage container and the reel. Many of the reels in the collection were metal, which can contribute to further decay and degeneration of the film or audio tape. Because of this, one of our main jobs over the last few weeks was re-reeling the media onto archival cores by hand. Although a rather painstaking process, this is a crucial step in preserving the media as best as possible.


As we near the end of the video and audio components, Ashley and I have shifted our attention to the paper based material. From programs to audience surveys, the vast amount of paper material in the collection is diverse and wide ranging. The collection contains information from every U.S. state along with a few international examples, including Canada, South Africa, and Yugoslavia. We will alphabetize the materials for each company or production by individual states, and hope to provide a unique blog post for every state. We would love to hear more on your thoughts so far. What are you most looking forward to seeing? Are there any productions you would like to see highlighted? Let us know what you think and please leave a comment!

Slides, Slides, and More Slides

We are finally nearing the end of the audio-visual materials for the condition report, and then it will finally be on to the hundreds of folders, to which I am looking forward. However, we are not quite there yet. I originally thought we would get into the papers this week, but that does not look like the case. Perhaps next week will finally be the week.

For the past couple of days when I have not been looking at film reels I have been looking at the thousands of slides – over 5500. There are multiple 4” binders overflowing with sheets of slides and a few slide carousels. There are slides from countless shows – those that are still running and those that have stopped production – and from a large timespan, ranging from as early at 1965 to as recent as 2000. Some of the shows include Black Hills Passion Play, Common Glory, Horn in the West, Legend of Daniel Boone, Lone Star, The Lost Colony, Stephen Foster Story, Tecumseh, Your Obedient Servant A. Lincoln, along with several Shakespeare Festivals from across the country.

I believe these slides will be of interest to a variety of people. Unfortunately, they will not be available until the entire collection has been processed. Until then, here are a few I have come across in my survey. Do you have any information or stories related to these images? Feel free to share them in the comments section.


Actors getting ready for Young Abe Lincoln, 1988.

Actors getting ready for Young Abe Lincoln, 1988.

Isaac Van Grove and Paul Green at Pioneer Amphitheatre, June 1966.

Isaac Van Grove and Paul Green at Pioneer Amphitheatre, June 1966.

Love's Labour's Lost, 1998.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1998.

Earliest dated slide found, 1948.

Earliest dated slide found, 1948.

Viking, 1986.

Viking, 1986.

Viva El Paso

Viva El Paso, 1998.

Tackling the Audio-Visual

With all the boxes officially at Joyner Library, it is now time to figure out what exactly we have. The preliminary inventory gave us an idea of what was in store, but still left several questions about what some boxes contained – specifically the 25 boxes of posters, blueprints, video, audio, and slides. And so began our more extensive look at the collection. We spent the first part of last week creating an inventory of the posters and blueprints. Here are a few of items we came across:

Lost Colony PosterShakespeare Festival 1996

Outdoor Dramas in NC

Examining Film

The second part of last week and continuing into this week was an inventory and condition report of the video and audio components. Handling of these formats requires wearing nitrile gloves and examine each tape carefully. What format is it? Does it have a date? How long does it run? What condition is the media itself in? And one of the more concerning questions, does it have any mold or significant signs of decay (such as vinegar syndrome)? If it does, it is down to conservator Lynette Lundin, who will take steps to remedy the situation much as possible.Examining Film 2

While doing the condition report, media is being rehoused into its new archival homes. The boxes currently do not have an official number yet, as we are not sure where they will live permanently within the collection. Will video, audio, and slides comprise their own series? Will posters and blueprints be incorporated in with the state theatre files as oversized material? These questions, along with several others, will need to be answered as Patrick and I work our way through the collection.

Let the Processing Begin

nhprc-logo-mThe Special Collections Division at Joyner Library was the recipient of a 2014 National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant from the National Archives and Records Administration. This one-year grant will enable the archives from the Institute of Outdoor Theatre (recently renamed from Institute of Outdoor Drama) to be arranged, described, and made available for research. While being processed, the collection will not be available to researchers.

The collection was boxed up and moved to Joyner Library the second week of October. During the first two weeks of October, Project Librarian, Ashley Williams, and Graduate Assistant, Patrick Merrigan, familiarized themselves with the collection, created an initial inventory, and processing plans.

Processing of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre Archives is currently underway. This large collection contains over 150 boxes, or nearly 250 linear feet. It includes play scripts, correspondence, clippings, publicity material, video and audio recordings, feasibility studies, publications, reel-to-reel tapes, 35 mm slides, blueprints, and audition-related materials for more than 600 outdoor theatres. As processing continues we’ll be sharing updates about our progress and what we’re finding.

Boxes on Shelf 2

Portion of boxes in collection. Missing boxes are currently being processed


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