Executive Summary

AiLASTM (Auto-intuitive Live Archive Searching) is a prototype advanced archive search engine invented by Kershaw and developed to beta-stage functioning with Anand, Rutter, Brock, Heron and other Warwick colleagues, funded by a £38K Research Development Fund grant. Designed to generic principles that could be adapted to most archives, the AiLAS system will: auto-intuitively aid identification of non-digitised archive items with high relevance to users’ research enquiries; support collaborative searching by geographically dispersed research groups; guide users to enhance cataloguing practice through tagging and commentaries; potentially add a significant new funding stream to archive budgets, making then more sustainable; make sophisticated archive searching accessible without travel.

The prototype uses Shakespeare’s plays as a model “knowledge domain” and an archive of productions by renowned theatre company Northern Broadsides as material for investigating its significance when put into action onstage. We want to undertake advanced testing of the system as a pedagogic tool with a group of up to 30 English/Theatre and Law undergraduate students, who will use AILAS collaboratively to explore language and law in Shakespeare’s knowledge domain through action-based learning. The students will be the chief stakeholders as they will have hands-on and analytical use of a unique means of studying complex data in ways that can make it accessible and immediately functional through dramatic open-space learning. Colleagues in English, Law and Theatre constitute the other immediate stakeholders as the teaching/learning process could further validate AILAS as a highly innovative pedagogical tool for those disciplines. But as its system is designed to adapt to other knowledge domains many other colleagues could also eventually benefit from this project.

If possible, we would like IATL staff to assist us in the analysis and assessment of the outcomes of the teaching/learning process through reviewing the data that AILAS will produce as a result of the students’ practical explorations of language and law via Shakespeare’s interest in love as potentially a fatal affliction. The project’s findings will be made accessible to other Warwick colleagues through an open-space seminar/workshop and a accessibly written, non-technical report. These will also have the benefit of feedback on the system and its pedagogic uses from expert colleagues in relevant disciplines at other universities, as well as in theatre/performance archives and Northern Broadsides Theatre.