It is easy to see how the emerging technologies of the entertainment industries such as motion capture, 3D modeling and video game engines are changing the worlds of cinema, animation, music video, and game design, but their impact on digital historiography and multimedia scholarship is perhaps less apparent. A notable exception may be found in David Saltz\'s Virtual Vaudeville, which offers a unique melding of technology and history that takes full advantage of these technologies in order to capture and recreate a highly ephemeral slice of American history ”" the 19th and early 20th century vaudeville theater.
But Virtual Vaudeville does more than attempt to simply bring this history to life in the manner of a Hollywood epic. The 3D spaces and performances recreated by Virtual Vaudeville are available to users from multiple points of view, which makes it possible to focus on not just the performers, but the architectural spaces of the long since demolished Union Square Theater or, importantly, the boisterous, segregated audiences who turned out to see the show. This interactive, multi-perspectival platform allows Virtual Vaudeville to move beyond simply creating a historical fetish object focused on specific figures ”" e.g., the project\'s inaugural performers, Jewish comedian Frank Bush or strongman Eugen Sandow ”" to speak to issues of race, ethnicity, class and historiography.
As part of an ongoing research project, Virtual Vaudeville also models a prototype \"Live Performance Simulation System,\" which promises to generalize its historical rendering capabilities to other types of performances or historical events. In the context of this issue of Vectors, Virtual Vaudeville is of particular interest as a model for using digital technology to generate new forms of evidence and extraordinary potentials for exploring them. The project thus functions as both a meticulously researched scholarly artifact and a tool-in-progress that may well prove foundational to an emerging field of historical visualization.
-- Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson