Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive - 7/17/09

One of my favorite day trips so far has been the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archives in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England. We arrived on Friday, July 17th in the quaint little town packed with lively tourists who come from all over the world to see the hometown of the famous 16th century playwright, William Shakespeare.

We had the unique opportunity of having a guided tour of the Library and Archives. The Library and Records Office holds The Shakespeare Collections which is comprised of combined materials from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The collection is divided into two categories; The Shakespeare Collections and The Local Collections. The Shakespeare Collections consist of printed book materials and the archive of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre 1879–1960 and of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from 1961 onwards. It also includes translations of Shakespeare in over 70 languages, and many unique documents relating to Shakespeare and his family. The Local Collections includes many archival records, books, photographs and maps relating to Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding area. Some of these date back to the 12th century.

Their collections are currently organized using a unique in-house system slightly resembling the Dewey Decimal system. They currently own approximately 50,000 books and pamphlets and about 250,000-300,000 photographs and digital images. About 1,000 of their books were printed before 1700! Included in their collection is a First folio of Shakespeare's works! Besides their regular employees, they benefit from the help of anywhere between 15-20 volunteers. In addition to their printed material they offer various unique databases, which are available for researchers use. They have a Cemetery Burials Register from 1881-1964 which contains 11,134 entries and can be searched by name, date and age. The Police Charge Books database from 1863-1880 holds recorded details of those arrested in the town, what crimes and misdemeanors they were charged with, and how the cases were dealt with. These details can be searched by person, crime, age, gender and date. Others include The Stratford Borough Workhouse database from 1819-1834, the Stratford Union Workhouse from 1884-1895 and 1903-1906 and the Smallpox Census from 1765.

We were given a tour of the four stacks in the basement area of the building. Stack 1 held a collection that really caught my attention. Is was titled "The Bram Stoker Collection". Apparently, unbeknownst to me up until this time, Bram Stoker was a business manager in the Lyceum Theatre for Sir Henry Irving, and was his friend and secretary for nearly 30 years. The collection housed in Stack 1 consisted of anything relating to Bram Stoker and Henry Irving during that time at the Lyceum theatre. It included menus, play reviews, and prompt books among other things.

You can find out more about this collection at The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive

Shakespeare's Birthplace
*Photo courtesy of www.freefoto.com

The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive
*Photo courtesy of www.thewaymarking.com

*Photo courtesy of www.visiting-stratford.co.uk

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