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cobweb

program organization - suggestions?

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As the years go by and I attend many performances, the programs are really piling up. It's also harder to keep them organized and find things if I'm wondering about a past performance that I saw. Knowing many of you must be in the same boat, I was wondering if anyone has suggestions for how to store and organize old programs. I've considered just tearing out the crucial casting pages, which would greatly reduce the bulk, but I can't quite bring myself to do that. Also considering just scanning the casting pages, but that would be a hassle. Does anyone have ideas or a system they can recommend for keeping the programs accessible and/or not take up too much space?

 

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I have performance "diaries" which are hand-written books listing featured casting by ballet, with an index.  I probably stopped updating it about 5 years ago, after a feeble attempt to use Excel to create a mini database. 

I went from keeping full programs to the cast pages, except for some European program books. Sadly, I lost most if a few years ago.  So I'm glad I had the written diaries. 

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I pull out the central pages with the casting info, which for NYCB and ABT programs (the two companies I see most frequently) leaves me with just a few sheets that include everything I want long-term.

I much prefer NYCB programs, because the front page of that central section always has the date and the first piece on the program, making these much easier to reference at a glance in my stacks.

I love the performance diary idea, though.

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Cobweb, I’m in the same boat. My designated drawer for my programs is bursting, so my current ones are just sitting on a counter. I guess I need to clear out another drawer. I also can’t bring myself to tearing them apart. 

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If anyone tries the diary method, which I managed to keep up fo 20 years, it can be wearisome, and I can't look back and see who danced as children in Nutcracker or in the corps. 

If anyone wants to try it, I'd suggest notebooks with movable pages. But if I were now looking at not moving boxes of programs, I'd either bite the bullet and create a spreadsheet and maybe take cell phone photos of the programs, as backup. 

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4 minutes ago, Helene said:

...take cell phone photos...

I think I’m very likely headed in this direction. Really, it’s the information (both as information and as memory stimulator) not the objects, that are most valuable to me.

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Thanks all for these suggestions. I am leaning toward tearing out the casting pages, and I feel more bold about it knowing that some of you do it also. Nanushka, a nit-picky question - do you staple the casting pages together, or use a paperclip or something else? I love the idea of a spreadsheet, but realistically I can't envision keeping this up. I wish NYCB would archive all the performance casting information (including who actually danced, including last-minute changes) on the website. I believe the Metropolitan Opera does this, although I haven't checked recently. 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, cobweb said:

 Nanushka, a nit-picky question - do you staple the casting pages together, or use a paperclip or something else?

Neither. If you pull out the central pages together, the sheets remain neatly folded and intact. (I never tear the sheets, only pull out the central ones from the staples.) I just keep all these folded sets in a stack, and eventually in a box.

Edited by nanushka

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Thanks nanushka! If you go the cell phone photo route, I'd be interested to know if you use Evernote or some other app to organize the pics. Off topic, but thanks also for your daily bulletins from the recent ABT season. I appreciate your reports. 

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21 minutes ago, cobweb said:

I'd be interested to know if you use Evernote or some other app to organize the pics.

That is definitely the next question I'd have to face — and even if I don't end up using digital photos for programs, I really need to get a handle on the growing folder of unorganized pics. UGGGGH!

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Programs are a real challenge for me as well -- I need to be able to look back at timing and casting.  I'm getting ready to move my office, and I think that will be the impetus to transcribe the essential information to a database as I am sorting, winnowing, and packing.

Or at least I certainly hope so!

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Posted (edited)

When I worked in a law firm library, we kept everything in date order, the most recent memo on top (we were very old fashioned). If I were as organized at home today, I would keep all the cast lists of a company in one folder in such a date order, with colored sheet of paper between seasons. I'd put occasional tear sheet from programs in another. If I put them in my computer, they would lose a lot of their "tangible" value, though you could probably do a lot of Nate Silver/538 like statistics and charts with them.

Anyway I've even kept the ticket stubs nestled in the casting sheets of my San Francisco Ballet seasons – when the dancers I most liked were still in the company and they were regularly doing Balanchine and Ratmansky – as a kind of stamp of authenticity. Some of my old City Ballet programs still contain those little slips of paper that indicated a very nervous-making when you first saw them, last minute casting change.

Edited by Quiggin

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Posted (edited)

I had to pitch well over a decade's worth of programs when I moved to my current digs. It hurt. (Actually, I probably didn't have to throw them out, but for some inexplicable reason I thought I did, so into the trash they went.)

Anyway, I learned my lesson. I've kept everything since then, but digitized. I rip out the pages with the casting & other production information on it, trim the edges, run them through my desktop scanner, and store the resulting PDFs on one of the storage drives attached to my home network. I use a data / document management program to organize the files. (I went paperless about a decade ago and invested in the tools that would make that possible. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap and a program called DevonThink.) It works really well: if I need to see who's been cast as Titania in every performance of Mindsummer Night's Dream I've attended since way back when, I can get there in about four mouse clicks. 

Using a cell phone is a reasonable alternative if you don't have a huge volume of documents to digitize, but I recommend using a scanning app rather than just the camera alone so that you can make a PDF document rather than JPEG image.  Most scanning programs (including the apps you can put on your phone) do a pretty decent job at OCR (optical character recognition), which makes the resulting PDF document searchable. That way you don't have to rely on a rigorous filing scheme—you can just search for a ballet or dancer or date to pull up the document you need. I use an app called Scanner Pro for things like receipts and it does an excellent job capturing the document, straightening it out, and turning it into a searchable PDF. You could use something like Evernote, but honestly, the file system on your computer or Google Drive would probably work just as well if you're working with searchable PDFs.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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Alas, I throw out the free casting sheets or playbills after I write a report or review in some forum. I keep only the glossy, larger souvenir programmes. I also keep production-specific booklets that some companies (Mariinsky, Bolshoi, Royal, Berlin, La Scala)  sell in their home theatres. The programmes/booklets are stored in two hand-painted footlockers, arranged according to company (ABT, Royal - easy to spot those by the red!, etc.) or event (ballet competitions or festivals). I go into the footlockers fairly often, especially to read the ballet-specific articles...the Royal Ballet's are particularly helpful. 

Fewer and fewer U.S. companies sell the larger souvenir programmes of the past. ABT used to have a new edition every 4-5 years but has had none since the 75th Anniv, that I'm aware. NYCB had them, too, into the '80s. I remember when wonderful full-color booklets about touring companies would be sold at the Met or Kennedy Center. The big Hochhauser tours of the Kirov or Bolshoi in London always sold beautiful book-quality programmes. Those were the days. Sigh.

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Kathleen, that is impressive! What do you do about casting changes?

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22 hours ago, cobweb said:

I wish NYCB would archive all the performance casting information (including who actually danced, including last-minute changes) on the website. I believe the Metropolitan Opera does this, although I haven't checked recently. 

I wish they would too, and I wish ABT did the same. The Met online archive is so valuable. One of my great ballet-related regrets is that I didn't save any programs from my first 5 years or so of attending ballet in NYC, even though I was going quite a lot. I just didn't realize yet that the documentation would matter to me as much as for opera (the programs for which I was already in the habit of saving). If ABT had detailed archives, I could just about reconstruct a record of which performances I saw each season, but without that, there's just no hope. It frustrates me so much that my records will never be complete!

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Posted (edited)
On 7/16/2019 at 10:46 AM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I had to pitch well over a decade's worth of programs when I moved to my current digs. It hurt. (Actually, I probably didn't have to throw them out, but for some inexplicable reason I thought I did, so into the trash they went.)

Anyway, I learned my lesson. I've kept everything since then, but digitized. I rip out the pages with the casting & other ...

You could use something like Evernote, but honestly, the file system on your computer or Google Drive would probably work just as well if you're working with searchable PDFs.

Oooh -- this is great advice!

Edited by sandik

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