Review of the Year. Highlights of 2021.

2021 was a great year for DCD Discover. Development moved forward apace, collaborations grew in strength and number, and community engagement continued giving great insights and comments about your needs and wants for DCD Discover.

What is DCD Discover?

DCD Discover is the open digital archive for Dance Collection Danse [DCD]. It is the product of DCD Labs, a user focused iterative process to produce an accessible archive fit for the digital age.

The intention with DCD Discover is that it is the repository for the archives for DCD AND a hub for performance related archives from individuals and institutions. Whether that’s two photographs or 20,000. All additions are welcome.


The DCD Collection contains a wealth of material all of which tells a story beyond what the item is. Collections are not static. The items do not tell one story; they tell many stories. What they mean and how they are interpreted change as society changes. Collection items can be used to create new works and new stories. 

A fantastic example of how the DCD Collection was an inspiration for new works is shown by the creations of the second year students at Ryerson School of Performance. Here’s one example:

Merlin Alldis

Merlin was Inspired by the numerous experimental interpretations of “The Nutcracker”. Merlin explained that these costumes have become codified and that he wanted to examine how far he could transform the costumes whilst keeping them recognisable. The costumes are designed to push the boundaries of typical ballet costuming. This fictional production of the Nutcracker is inspired by queer culture and incorporates burlesque, 1930’s fashion and Jazz music.

Read about all of the students’ amazing creations in Creating New Creations


Teigan Goldsmith from the Ottawa Jewish Archives explained the benefits of collaborating with DCD and DCD Discover. It’s a collaboration that is mutually beneficial. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Crowdsourcing

In all collections, many of the dancers shown in photographs remain unidentified, as do the locations, performances and costume designers. With these photographs accessible on DCD Discover it is possible that others can help and add their knowledge. This may come in the form of someone browsing, recognising a person and adding the information to the description. Or, we can put call outs for selected photographs and ask the community to help. 

  • Machine learning

Another great way that collaboration can help to identify the currently unknown is through its machine learning. Early on in the development of DCD Discover, machine learning successfully identified Noel Coward in a photograph. Noel Coward is well known but the machine learns and the more images it is shown, the more successful it becomes. It recently identified the National Ballet of Canada’s founding artistic director, Celia Franca.

  • Critical Mass

Collaborative working, with the addition of more material from individuals and organisations, will enable more identifications and breakthroughs because we will be able to see links between materials. For example, a document from one organisation and a photograph from an individual may show us that a dancer was performing in a place that we previously didn’t know about. 

There are many breakthroughs and discoveries to be made. The more user generated content that is added to DCD Discover, the more this will be revealed. As a Live Lab attendee stated ‘ [There are] so many stories to be uncovered’.


Over the year, there were many developments to DCD Discover. Some you will see. Others are working away in the background to ensure that DCD Discover delivers what you have asked for. Check out our Dev Diary for more details of our development in 2021. 

Marcus Bointon (one of our tech developers) wrote some great blogs giving more insight into the work and thought that is going into developing DCD Discover including:

The major development of the year was the rollout of DCD Discover V.1. It’s available for you to use, experiment with and play with. We encourage you to ‘break it’. We’d love to know what you like, what you don’t like, what we should change, remove and/or add, and any other comments you have. You can give your feedback using the form linked to every item.

Alternatively you can contact Lorraine

And finally …

2022 sees the final push for the development of DCD Discover. Please do get involved. Your comments count. With you we will create a digital archive which is accessible to all and meets your needs. 

Happy New Year.

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