Saturday, July 18, 2009

ACADEMIC - Shakespeare Centre Library

Photo of Shakespeare's Birthplace courtesy of Dr. Welsh.
Yesterday the class traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon (about 2 hours away from London) and visited the Shakespeare Centre Library. This library has some commonly used items out in shelves but most of its collection is housed in "stacks" which are rooms closed off by vault looking doors, so you have to request items in order to see them. They get a lot of Shakespeare researchers, theatre actors studying for a part, theatre students, people doing family history and other visitors.

The library is part of the Shakespeare Trust, formed in 1847. It gets all of its funding through the Trust. The Trust also comprimises Shakespeare's birthplace.

This library houses the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) archive full of pictures and prompt books from productions dating back to the 1800s. We got to see pictures from A Midsummer Night's Dream production over 100 years old.

We were also shown the kind of exhibits these librarians do. Many school groups etc. are brought in to see materials housed by the library. The staff has to choose what to exhibit and they have to work to keep the materials preserved and unharmed from exhibition. The best thing in the exhibit shown yesterday was one of the First Folios. Joan, the librarian showing us these items, actually flipped through the pages up until the first page of the first play in the book The Tempest. It was breathtaking to be that close to one of those.

I enjoyed seeing such a specialized library. It was also interesting to visit a charity library, meaning they get no funding from the government. So, if you are ever in England vist one of the sites in Stratford and you will most likely be contributing to their great work. To learn more about the Shakespeare Centre Library, click here.

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