Dunham's Data: Katherine Dunham and Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry, Personnel Check-In, 1947-1960 (ICPSR 38544)

Version Date: Oct 19, 2022 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Harmony Bench, Ohio State University; Kate Elswit, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Great Britain)



Version V1

The Check-In Dataset is the second public-use dataset in the Dunham's Data series, a unique data collection created by Kate Elswit (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London) and Harmony Bench (The Ohio State University) to explore questions and problems that make the analysis and visualization of data meaningful for dance history through the case study of choreographer Katherine Dunham.

The Check-In Dataset accounts for the comings and goings of Dunham's nearly 200 dancers, drummers, and singers and discerns who among them were working in the studio and theatre together over the fourteen years from 1947 to 1960. As with the Everyday Itinerary Dataset, the first public-use dataset from Dunham's Data, data on check-ins come from scattered sources. Due to information available, it has a greater level of ambiguity as many dates are approximated in order to achieve accurate chronological sequence. By showing who shared time and space together, the Check-In Dataset can be used to trace potential lines of transmission of embodied knowledge within and beyond the Dunham Company.

Dunham's Data: Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry is funded by the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC AH/R012989/1, 2018-2022) and is part of a larger suite of ongoing digital collaborations by Bench and Elswit, Movement on the Move. The Dunham's Data team also includes digital humanities postdoctoral research assistant Antonio Jiménez-Mavillard and dance history postdoctoral research assistants Takiyah Nur Amin and Tia-Monique Uzor.

For more information about Dunham's Data, please see the Dunham's Data website. Also, visit the Dunham's Data research blog to view the interactive visualizations based on the Dunham's Data.

Bench, Harmony, and Elswit, Kate. Dunham’s Data: Katherine Dunham and Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry, Personnel Check-In, 1947-1960. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2022-10-19. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR38544.v1

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Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (Project Grant AH/R012989/1), Battelle Engineering, Technology and Human Affairs Endowment (BETHA) and The Ohio State University
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

1947 -- 1960

For further information, please see the Dunham's Data website.

To view the interactive visualizations, please visit the Dunham's Data research blog.


As part of a larger case study of choreographer Katherine Dunham, the purpose of these data is to account for the movements over time of the nearly 200 dancers, drummers, and singers in Dunham's employ between 1947 and 1960.

Creation and auditing for this dataset was done in the following phases.

First, the preliminary draft of the 1947-60 dataset was curated from archival sources, in tandem with the Everyday Itinerary and Repertory datasets. A second pass was done to revisit each piece of evidence identified as a source, and assign confidence levels to each check-in. During this second phase, some check-ins were re-dated to better represent their position chronologically in relation to other evidence.

In the third phase, names from the expanded 1937-62 Repertory dataset were added to the Personnel Attributes dataset, and reconciled as AKAs where appropriate. In the fourth phase, an expanded Personnel Check-In dataset was drafted from select programs to encompass 1937-1962, which supported the discovery and disambiguation of further AKAs (not part of this release).

In the final phase, performer check-ins were audited in two ways: 1) by comparing performers with similar first and last names across 1937-62; and 2) by spot-checking any performer with a gap in check-ins of more than two years.


Primary sources include correspondence, payroll, programs, run notes, and travel visa applications. Most sources are available through special collections at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU) and Missouri Historical Society (MHS).

observational data

Personnel Check-In 1947-60 Data:

  • Date: The data are organized chronologically from January 1st, 1947 to December 31st, 1960 (one date per row).
  • Source: The sources for materials from which information contained in that row was drawn. Box and folder-level information is provided to document the researchers' process and to aid future researchers.
  • Source type: The type of archival evidence that underpins the row, categorized as "travel", "stage", "administration", and "correspondence".
  • Notes: Description of the source document and/or key information drawn from it, including commentary around conflicting pieces of evidence.
  • Confidence: Confidence in each check-in date's accuracy. Lower numbers represent higher thresholds of confidence that the check-in occurred on the date listed.
  • Comprehensiveness: A comprehensive check-in is based on archival evidence that includes all performers present at the time. A non-comprehensive check-in is based on evidence that only includes some performers.
  • Performers are sorted alphabetically by last name and only includes those who appeared onstage with Dunham. "Y" indicates a performer was there, whereas "N" indicates a performer was specifically not there.

First and Last Check-Ins Data: This dataset compiles every performer's first and last check-in data. Names are consistent with those used in the main Personnel Check-In data. Dates are formatted by "day, month, year".

Performer Passport Nationality by Year Data: This dataset aggregates the number of checked-in performers that traveled with Dunham's company during each year by passport nationality.

Public AKAs Data: All key alternative names for performers encountered in the archives are listed.





  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

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