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I’m not making it up, I’m interpreting : adapting the Founders and Survivors Project for drama and web‐series

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Nicholson, LC ORCID: 0000-0002-2644-5935 2018 , 'I’m not making it up, I’m interpreting : adapting the Founders and Survivors Project for drama and web‐series', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses the process of adapting an historical research project – the Founders and Survivors Project – for drama and web-series, a process characterised as the “creative interpretation” of history. Creative interpretations are ubiquitous and wield significant influence on the wider public’s understanding of both history and the past. However, there is currently limited methodological research into their development from a practitioner perspective. This thesis applies a practice-based research strategy in order to investigate this process and charts an interdisciplinary course between archival history, heritage studies, adaptation studies and performance.
The Founders and Survivors Project uses quantitative and digital analysis techniques to investigate the experience and legacy of the approximately 73,000 convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania) between 1803 and 1853. The project findings have challenged a number of long‐held myths about the Tasmanian convict experience. Adaptations of the Founders and Survivors Project have been developed through practice‐based research and are included in this thesis. They comprise two play scripts (The Needle and Are your z-scores getting encores?) and an eight episode web-series (Oh Hi There History). These three creative outputs are used as case studies to critically engage with some of the key issues and challenges that come to the fore in the process of creative interpretation.
The thesis establishes that archival historians do not just employ discipline‐specific methods for engaging with the past but that archival history can also be framed as a specific medium. By applying an adaptation studies‐informed framework to characterise the transposing of content between mediums, a productive and non‐hierarchical relationship between history and creative interpretation emerges. The extent to which a creative interpreter can pursue “archival accuracy” in a manner akin to an archival historian is heavily informed by the medium in which they are developing a creative interpretation, the audience it is being developed for, and its purpose. This purpose can often include, but is not exclusive to, the accurate communication of historical research.
Although this thesis finds that the widely noted dissonance between creative interpretation and contemporary archival history is largely unavoidable it also maps common ground to foster collaboration between the two. It does this by introducing a new methodological tool, a Creative Interpretation Compass, to support the making of considered, contextualised choices whilst navigating between six key agendas in developing a creative interpretation – of which archival accuracy is just one. These choices all have ethical ramifications, including risks of misrepresentation, decontextualisation of digital data and the particular issues of consent and representation that arise when working with convict archives.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Nicholson, LC
Keywords: creative interpretation, adaptation studies, practice-based research, convict heritage, convict history, historical theatre, historical film, digital media
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Copyright 2018 the author

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