Heritage Open Day tours

The public will have a rare chance to see treasures usually kept under lock and key in the labyrinth of vaults beneath The Shakespeare Centre from 6-9 September.

03 September 2012

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is offering free behind the scenes tours of its strong rooms for Heritage Open Days.  The tours will illustrate Stratford-upon-Avon’s rich heritage, including some items that have never been on public display.  From the Stratford version of the Anglo Saxon hoard, to stage and costume designs and rare early books and documents relating to Shakespeare and the wider history of the town, the tours will provide a fascinating insight into the different aspects of the Trust’s world-class collections.

As well as holding the world’s largest Shakespeare-related museum and archive open to the public, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust also cares for the production archive of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the records for Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding area.  Designated as a collection of national importance, the Trust’s Library & Archive welcomes scholars and groups from all over the world, yet many local people and visitors remain unaware of the resource, some of which lies literally beneath their feet in Henley Street.

“Heritage Open Days are a great way for people in to find out more about the collections and what we do,” said Delia Garratt, Head of Collections and Interpretation at the Trust.   While we have many of our museum objects on display in the five Shakespeare Houses, we simply don’t have suitable spaces to display some of the most important items in the collection.  It’s a treat to be able to offer tours of some of the hidden treasures which rarely, if ever, leave the strong rooms except on special request.”

One hour walking tours of the Shakespeare Centre strong rooms will take place at various times from 6-9 September.  Pre-booking is essential.  Call 01789 204016 and ask for Collections or email scla@shakespeare.org.uk.

The Trust’s collections team will also be giving informal talks throughout the weekend (8 and 9 September) at Nash’s House, where there will be a special Heritage Open Day display of Anglo-Saxon artefacts on view for the first time.   There will also be displays of some of the finds unearthed during the Dig for Shakespeare on the site of Shakespeare’s final home, New Place.  Visitors will also be able to meet some of the archaeologists who have been working on the three year Dig project, which will close on 4 November.    Entry to Nash’s House & New Place is free during the Heritage Open Day weekend.  Booking is not necessary.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is fundraising to improve access to its collections.  While the Heritage Open Days activities are free, donations are welcome (http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/support-us/appeals/caring-for-the-collections)

Did you know?..

* The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust collections contain:

- More than 1 million documents covering all aspects of Shakespeare’s works, life and times, the stage history of Shakespeare and other dramatists

       - 50,000 books, including 2,500 early printed and rare books

       - Translations of Shakespeare’s plays in 80 languages

       - The production archive of the RSC and its predecessor the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre from 1879 to the present.

       - 11,000 artefacts dating mainly from the 16th -18th centuries including furniture, art and domestic objects

* You can view hundreds of treasures from the collections on the new, free, mobile phone app, Eye Shakespeare, which lets you create unique walking tours of ten key sites and five centuries of local history in Stratford-upon-Avon

* 3000 readers visit the library every year to research topics relating to William Shakespeare and Stratford upon Avon. 

* The collections provide resources for 11,000 children, students and adults who attend the Trust’s  courses each year.

* The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive reading room is open to all Wednesday-Friday  (10am – 4.30pm) and most Saturdays (9.30-12.30). 

*You can follow SCLA activities on the blog www.findingshakespeare.co.uk