AusStage: a very Australian story

AusStage is Australia’s on-line database for the performing arts.  It is freely accessible, at no costs to users and, after seventeen years of continuous operation and enhancement, it is the leading performing arts database in the world.

AusStage is a unique national resource.  It reflects our history and our passions as a nation, making available information on 240,000+ events, artists and arts organisations that define our collective story.  There are many on-line databases in the performing arts area.  Only AusStage has the capacity to convey a national narrative. 

AusStage is a database containing information about the past but its focus is also the future.  For individual researchers, arts organisations, policy makers and governments, it makes available the artistic facts of our development as a modern, multicultural, pluralist state.  It tells us what we have done and points the way to what we can do next.  It is a crucial resource for the unfolding of our national imagination.

AusStage contains tens of thousands of stories.  And yet those stories are at the same time one story: the story of the performing arts in Australia, as the country has journeyed from colonial settlement to modern democracy.  It is this capacity to reflect both the plurality of Australian culture, but also its common historical trajectory, that makes AusStage a resource for everyone. 

AusStage is simple to use yet sophisticated in its capacities and tools.  It can represent information numerically, verbally and graphically.  It can produce maps showing the locations of events, artists and arts organisations, and how the lines of aesthetic transmission between them have developed over time.  At the touch of a button it can create charts and tables to steer research, inform arts programming and shape cultural policy. 

The stories in AusStage are singular, but they belong to all.  Taken together they show the cultural labour Australians have engaged in to produce the vibrant performing arts sector we have today.  They show the importance of Aboriginal performance traditions, the impact of the European theatre canon, and the struggles of our national drama.  AusStage contains vital information assisting sophisticated analyses of our different cultural legacies, and of performing arts activities and debates today. 

As an exemplary national resource, AusStage helps transmit the complex, pluralist identity of our country overseas.  It helps us participate in an international conversation about the performing arts, and culture generally.  It actively demonstrates in a way that no other resource can, the breath, complexity, depth and originality of the artistic imagination in Australia, past, present and future.

AusStage can not rely solely on ARC funding to keep the database up-to-date so we are seeking donations from users and interested parties. By putting together a plan of shared action now to ensure that AusStage is not vulnerable to sudden changes in research priorities, it will thrive in future and provide good data to both researchers and a society, where good data increasingly matters.