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NYPL Labs: "How Do You Document Real Life": A tale of RENT, Jonathan Larson's floppy disks and digital forensics


Jonathan Larson / MS Word 5.1Jonathan Larson / MS Word 5.1

A NYPL Labs lunch talk with Doug Reside

On February 4, 1992, Jonathan Larson saved a Microsoft Word document that grew, over four years, to become the musical RENT. Although Larson saved and resaved the file multiple times, at least some of the earlier drafts can be recovered thanks to Larson’s personal archival practices and a feature called “fast save” that was embedded in his copy of Microsoft Word 5.1. In this talk, Doug Reside, Digital Curator at the Library for the Performing Arts, will discuss the process he used to recover these early drafts and what his process suggests for the work of curators, scholars, and archivists in the future.

Free and open to the public. Bring lunch! 


Doug Reside became Digital Curator for the Performing Arts at New York Public Library in 2011 after four and a half years on the directorial staff of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). He has been the director on multiple theater library projects including Music Theater Online, and the Shakespeare Quartos Archive. He is currently editing the Musical of the Month blog at NYPL which makes available, in various ebook formats, one pre-1923 libretto each month. He is currently writing a book about the ways in which digital technology has changed the creation and production of musical theater.


NYPL Labs is an experimental technology unit working closely with curators to develop imaginitive new interfaces, tools and participatory initiatives around research library collections and data. Labs hosts public talks and workshops on a roughly monthly basis on advanced topics in the digital humanities. Keep an eye out for future events @nypl_labs. Get in touch at