Super Shakespeare collection aim

By Ian Hughes Friday 12 October 2012 Updated: 19/10 08:16

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Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Honorary President Professor Stanley Wells with the recently uncovered Shakespeare Cobbe portrait.

SHARING their Shakespearean treasures together with the world is the aim of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

The collections held by the two Stratford-based institutions are the most important Shakespeare collections in Europe, with international significance for both scholars and the general public.

SBT currently has a number of different so-called Designated Collections, highlighting their national and international importance. SBT's collections range from a Library Collection, of printed materials and books, to a Museum Collection, giving an insight into the material world Shakespeare and his family knew, and SBT also looks after the RSC's collection, including photos, scripts, and costume designs, while the RSC Collection includes museum items, props, costumes and artwork.

Work is already underway on the mammoth task of bringing the two collections together as one single Shakespeare Collection, in a bid to make research for scholars easier, and also to open the collections up online to people around the world.

Not only is the task of amalgamating the collections a painstaking job, it is also expensive, and SBT has applied for a number of grants, and this week was successful in securing two Arts Council England grants worth £203,000 to help with the ten year project.

Dr Delia Garratt, Head of Collections and Interpretation at SBT, said: “We are delighted to secure this funding which will enable us to make a major step change in the way we manage our collections.

"Our long term vision is to present these as a single Shakespeare Collection, both here in Stratford and around the world through digital platforms.

“Our partnership with the RSC is unique among Designated Collections, and the funding will enable us to conserve and catalogue the RSC’s costume collection, and contextualise them by cross reference to the costume bibles, designs and production records held in our own archives.

“The funding will also be used to develop a ten year strategy for managing the collections as the world’s most important single Shakespeare collection, taking into account the needs of all our different audiences , existing and future presentation spaces, including how to make them available digitally, and a business model to sustain a world class collection.”

Geraldine Collinge, the RSC's Director of Events and Exhibitions, was equally exited at the chance to create a single Shakespeare Collection.

She said: “This is a great opportunity for us to work with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to look at how we can make a more connected offer of our Collections and archive. I am excited at the possibility of looking at the costumes together with their designs, the photographs and the many other records around each play and think that we will be able to offer something unique for visitors by bringing them together.”

SBT's collections include three First Folios and a number of handwritten documents referring to William Shakespeare from his own lifetime, while the RSC achieve, begun by Charles Flower in 1879 as part of the original theatre, includes props, productions records and programmes, as well as costumes.

* MARTIN Wiggins will be talking about his new book, Drama & the Transfer of Power in Renaissance England, at The Shakespeare Centre on Wednesday (October 17).

Dr Wiggins is Senior Lecturer and Fellow, and Tutor for Research at The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

Admission to the talk is £4 (Friends of SBT £3, students £1) payable on the door, which opens at 12.30pm for 1pm start.

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Buy photos» One of the First Folios held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. 15.09.023.strat.jm11.

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