Faculty of Arts Digital Studio project shortlisted for the Victorian Community History Awards

An interactive multimedia project La Mama: The Biggest Little Theatre in Australia has been shortlisted for the 2020 Victorian Community History Awards, among 15 other history projects which are also in the running for the Victorian Premier’s History Award major prize.

La Mama Theatre

La Mama Theatre. First walk through, 2018. Image supplied

The tour was created by Rachel Fensham and Andrew Fuhrmann for the Visualising Venues project of the Digital Studio at the University of Melbourne in partnership with Digital Heritage Australia.

After the devastating fire at La Mama theatre that nearly destroyed its 100-year-old brick building in 2018, a sigh of relief went up when it was realised that most of the documentation of thousands of shows created over their 50-year history was housed at the University of Melbourne.

With support from a dedicated team at the University Archives and La Mama historian Fiona Wiseman, this valuable theatre resource of photographs, posters and other records of performances from 1968-1997 was catalogued, digitised and made available to the public in 2019. It can now be searched through the Theatre and Dance Platform at the University of Melbourne and the National Library search engine Trove, as well as identified through the AusStage database.

Coranderrk, Jen Tran 2018

Coranderrk, Jen Tran 2018

As La Mama’s reconstruction is now well underway, the project group wanted to provide wider access to the story of the place, the people and the performances that have made La Mama “the biggest little theatre in Australia”.

The Digital Studio team created an interactive historical capsule of this landmark theatre, recording its place in Carlton and the city of Melbourne, and celebrating the creative community that supports it. Featuring archival video, photographs, posters and interviews, the web portal allows the viewer to inhabit the space through the performances that still hover in the walls of the ruin.

The La Mama tour is part of the Visualising Venues project which traces the changing function of performance venues of national importance in the cultural ecosystem, revealing shifts in the aesthetic and political priorities of the theatre and dance sector of Melbourne, and documenting demographic and social changes. The project prioritises documenting and creating interactive tours of performing arts venues that are vulnerable to imminent destruction or redevelopment.

This project was made possible through the partnership of La Mama, University of Melbourne Archives, the Australian Centre, and theatre academics from the School of Culture and Communication, supported by a Communities of Place and Interest Engagement Grant from the University of Melbourne.

Visit La Mama: The Biggest Little Theatre in Australia