Project Arianna / Shakespeariana

Arianna is a digital archive of images and texts related to Shakespearean drama, which extends over a chronological span that goes from the age of Shakespeare to the present. The database currently contains about 16.000 images and related file cards, with the possibility for the user to carry out simple or combined searches on all the fields, following thematic lines and personalized paths. Conceived as a meta-archive, the project traces a thread of continuity between the representations of the past and contemporary performances, through the creation of  a virtual network of theatrical archives, beginning from those of the local institutions but extending to an international context. It contains very heterogeneous figurative documents, ranging from paintings freely inspired by Shakespeare's plays to stage photos, from sketching to illustrated editions. It includes images inspired to Shakespeare adaptations and re-writing, concerning both prose and opera theatre. The platform is constantly updated and can be consulted on the website:

How was the project born? Prof. Sandra Pietrini relates this story:

«The idea of creating a database on the iconography inspired by classical texts and their adaptations was born in 2010. I gained some expertise in the subject while working for years on the theatre iconography project Dionysos at the University of Florence. The publication of the database in CD-ROM in 2006 had ended the project and I was missing a collective work, something concrete like an archive to be left as a legacy to future generations: writing books is a gratifying experience, but it is an activity that takes place almost always in solitude and outside the dynamics of a work group. For these reasons I took up a new challenge: to create a more specific iconographic archive concerning  the classics. The elaboration of a digital database modeled on our needs was entrusted to Stefano Bernardini, who believed in the project and provided us with a search mask with the fields and key-words we had conceived. I still remember the first mask I designed by hand and scanned as a draft, namely the starting point for the graphic interface... how much work, and how many new stages and goals were still to come! In the following years, thanks to the collaboration of a small group of young women, students and graduates, the project became clearer, with continuous reworking and optimization of research functions and controlled dictionaries. A challenge born in the feminine, which led us, therefore, to call it Arianna, with obvious reference to the Dionysos project conceived at the time by my old master Cesare Molinari.

We soon realized that Shakespearean iconography extended far beyond that of the other classical texts, both in terms of quantity and the variety of iconographic themes. Therefore, we decided to focus on the collection and study of documents concerning Shakespearean drama during the centuries. In the meantime, the project had obtained a two-year funding for working on the archives provided by the Fondazione Caritro, with Pergine Spettacolo Aperto as the leading proponent and the Centro Culturale Santa Chiara as a partner. From 2011 to 2013, thanks to the support of these institutions, Arianna reached important milestones also in the dissemination of the database, which was put online by the informatics agency HG blu of Alain Nardelli, and gave rise in March 2013 to a first international symposium, Picturing Drama. Illustrazioni e riscritture dei grandi classici dall’antichità ai nostri giorni, whose proceedings were published soon after. In the meanwhile, collaborations have been established with important Italian and foreign institutions, extending the research of material on historical and geographical areas still under-represented, such as the Hispanic area, and on specific thematic areas, such as the operatic adaptations. From 2013 to 2015, the project received a new boost from the collaboration of Valeria Tirabasso, who carried out her PhD thesis on Shakespeare's The Tempest and coordinated the team of Arianna for over two years. The project also gives the opportunity for students to collaborate with the team through an internship at the Laboratorio Teatrale. Since 2015, a new important collaboration has been established with the Teatro Massimo Foundation, which since then has supported the project every year with a financial contribution and has made available the material of its own historical archive, inserted and catalogued in the database. To facilitate the consultation of the archive, the search mask, the fields and headwords have been translated in English. In October 2015 we organized a second international symposium, "Shakespeare off-scene. Shakespeare un-seen": le scene solo raccontate nell’iconografia shakesperiana, whose proceedings have been published in 2016.

The years 2016-2017 were years of transition. We focused on the improvement of the existing contents of the archive, with the updating of  more than 11.000 cards. A particular attention was devoted to targeted acquisitions – for example, to the illustrated editions and other iconographical sets of particular relevance. Another major challenge was launched and carried out: a complete reworking of the web platform to allow all operators and collaborators to work directly online, which was entrusted to the IT company Maxmile. This important goal was finally reached at the beginning of 2018. In the meantime, from 2017 onwards, the coordination of the working group was assigned to doctor Enrico Piergiacomi, a former collaborator of the project. Currently, the database is online on a dedicated server of the University of Trento and contains over 16.000 cards, of which almost 14,000 are published. The next challenge is to translate the entire archive into English, completing the translation of the most discursive fields (Title, Description and Annotations), in order to fulfill the international vocation of the project. Another demanding challenge, which will require considerable human and economic resources. But we will make it!».