The Pages of Early Soviet Performance

Transforming images of Soviet performing arts periodicals into data for computational analysis

The work conducted by Kat Reischl and Thomas Keenan is part of an ongoing collaboration between Slavic Department faculty and the Library. To date, they have organized two international symposia that highlight Slavic materials in Princeton’s Special Collections that combine visual and verbal media and the problems and potentialities of their digital remediation.

Tentatively scheduled for Spring 2021, Reischl, Keenan and Prof. Serguei Oushakine (Slavic and Anthropology) will host the third symposium in a series on Soviet visual and verbal culture, The Pages of Early Soviet Performance, which will focus on early-Soviet illustrated periodicals related to the performing arts. Twelve titles from Princeton’s extensive collection are currently being digitized by PUL — titles that provide a rich picture of Soviet culture during the first decades after the October Revolution (1917-1932). The resulting papers will considerably advance research in the fields of Russian periodical studies, visual culture, and Soviet cultural history.

While for the first two symposia, scholars only accessed digitized material as images through PUL’s digital library, it is imperative that these performance periodicals are available to participants as data. Both the potential — and the challenges — are significant. The collection is sizable: 12 titles totaling 982 issues and approximately 73,000 pages. 

The richly illustrated issues represent Russia’s early twentieth-century experiments with layout, composition, graphic design, and typography. They contain verbal texts — articles, reviews, advertising copy, performance listings, captions; as well as images — photographs, set and costume designs, caricatures, cartoons, graphic representations of movement and dance, and page ornaments.

CDH Grant History

  • 2020–2021 Dataset Curation