This transnational research project is sponsered by the Dutch Research Organisation NWO. It sets out to establish a European research network to explore the transfer of technical knowledge in early modern theater and performance cultures (ca.1540-1770). Unlike preindustrial technologies (like wind- and watermills), little is known so far about the transfer (traveling, translating, mediating, teaching) of technologies of spectacle such as theater and stage machineries that aimed at the admiration and enchantment of its audiences and that did not serve productive purposes in the first place.
Characteristic of technologies of spectacle is the surrounding secrecy that is amplified due to the singularity and socio-political significance of the events these technologies are part of (such as noble weddings or diplomatic encounters). While depictions of spectacular stage effects circulated widely during the seventeenth century, the distribution of theater technology in print remained scarce. Hence, this research network focuses primarily on unpublished archival material such as drafts, sketches and schemes for stage machinery and scenography but also on travel accounts, letters, diaries written by architects and engineers.
Researching the transfer of technical knowledge in early modern theater cultures across Europe requires a network-based approach that spans across multiple archives, diverse languages, disciplines and fields of expertise. The project comprises a series of four interdisciplinary workshops, carried out by the partnering institutions, and a joint peer-reviewed journal publication. Its goal is the preparation and successful application for a joint training network in the EU Framework Programme.