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Cross-Cultural Dance Resources Collections announces online access to rare archival media

The Cross-Cultural Dance Resources (CCDR) Collections, recognized as an “American Treasure” in 2000 by the White House Millennium Project, will now offer online access to its rare archival media, following a recently completed media digitization project to preserve the material.

Dance artifacts from Cross-Cultural Dance Resources Collections.

The project, funded through a "Recordings at Risk" grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, generated 738 new digital media files that the CCDR Collections is now making accessible to Arizona State University faculty, students and the general public.

The CCDR Collections, in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, collects, preserves and provides access to an aggregation of research materials to support the interdisciplinary study of dance as a human universal practiced in many different ways around the globe and to enrich understanding of dance in all its societal functions and cultural contexts.

“It is very exciting to be able to offer this media to the world,” said Adair Landborn, curator of the CCDR Collections since 2015. “My previous career was as a dance performer, educator, scholar and choreographer. Now that I am curating the CCDR Collections and overseeing this digitization project, I have had the remarkable opportunity to take a front-row seat over the last year viewing newly digitized media that has not been seen in decades, or in some cases, ever.”

The new digital media resources are being made accessible on Omeka.net, a web platform used by libraries and collections for online exhibits. Landborn received funding from an ASU Institute of Humanities Research seed grant in 2018 to begin building CCDR Collections' online presence with an extensive collection of audiovisual resources paired with related dance scholarship. That work is continuing through November 2021 through the support of a Herberger Research Investment award.

The recent nearly $50,000 digital preservation Recordings at Risk grant, “Preserving and Providing Access to the Audiovisual Materials of an ‘American Treasure’ of Dance Ethnology Scholarship and World Cultural Heritage,” was awarded for the period May 2019 through April 2020, but Landborn was granted a yearlong extension to complete the project.

After the creation of the digital files by Scenesavers, Landborn began managing the digital media files and making the audiovisual resources accessible.

The technical metadata for the media files was provided by Scenesavers while Landborn generated both the descriptive and administrative metadata. She viewed and listened to all of the new audiovisual resources, enriching the descriptive metadata by researching corresponding materials in the CCDR Collections archive. The digitization grant required that the metadata be publicly available, so Landborn created a searchable spreadsheet, published under a Creative Commons License, to provide public access to descriptions of the rare archival media and explain how to request access to the materials.

Landborn said that transitioning these rare archival media into digital formats is a very important first step in their preservation that will make reformatting them into future digital formats much easier. Preservation of the digital media files is the next step, while the original media items remain protected in a safe environment. At this point approximately one-fifth of the audiovisual resources in the CCDR Collections has been digitized.

“The CCDR Collections functions as a library and a museum as well as an archive containing the collections of several dance scholars who were particularly instrumental in the creation of the emergent fields of dance ethnology and the anthropology of dance,” Landborn said. “This digitization project means researchers can now make correlations between each scholar's written scholarship and their recorded research materials. For the digitization, I prioritized media from the archival part of the CCDR Collections.”

The original creator of the CCDR Collections was the late Joann W. Kealiinohomoku, professor emerita of anthropology at Northern Arizona University and leading figure in the development of anthropology of dance, who also provided a legacy of her own audiovisual resources. Kealiinohomoku added audiovisual resources to the CCDR Collections for decades by inviting dancers from around the world to perform in venues in Flagstaff, Arizona, and recording their performances. Her two areas of expertise were Native American (Hopi) dance and dance traditions in the Pacific Islands, where she attended and recorded festivals of cultural exchange.

Landborn described the CCDR Collections as very interdisciplinary, with the library housing general texts on sociology, anthropology, religion and dance, as well as texts focused on related arts like music, theater, storytelling and costumes, or the performance traditions of specific culture groups.

In addition to rare archival materials, the CCDR Collections contains over 15,000 monographs, as well as journals, photos, films, video and audio recordings, dolls, textiles, cultural artifacts, musical instruments, masks, costumes, puppets and more.

The museum component includes a large collection of musical instruments to support studies in ethnomusicology, and numerous costumes and dolls for the study of how humans represent themselves or their culture through costumes or body shapes.

Costumes include costumes and masks donated by Eleanor King, a modern dance pioneer, visual artist and cross-cultural dance researcher in Japan and Korea.

Landborn is currently directing a team of ASU graduate student workers and volunteers to develop a unique online audiovisual media collection that represents 50 years of research on the dance and music traditions of southeastern Europe, Macedonia and Croatia by Elsie Ivancich Dunin, dance ethnologist, choreographer and professor emerita at UCLA. Her research papers are currently available in the CCDR Collections archive. Dunin’s generous support of the CCDR Collections allows the School of Music, Dance and Theatre to make all these resources available to students, faculty and the dance community.

“Resources in the CCDR Collections help us understand how dance functions within cultures around the world,” Landborn said. “In some cultural contexts, dance is more than a performing art. Dance is how religion gets done, dance is how the climate is ‘controlled.’ Dance is an integral part of human life in many places around the world. It is central to how people behave and societies function. In anthropological terms, it's universal, it’s what humans do — they dance. The person who has dance knowledge, the person who is the dance leader is often also a leader of that social group. In some areas of the world, dance is power."

lamacdon@asu.edu