The theme of our Heritage Open Days 2015 event was “Do something different”, so we decided to stage our biggest pop-up exhibition to date as a change from our usual strongroom or building tours. In recent years, we’ve been disappointed that tours have meant us turning away many visitors who’ve arrived on the day and haven’t pre-booked. We wanted to allow anyone passing by to feel they could call in; whether they had just 10 minutes spare or wanted to spend longer browsing, reading and chatting to staff. Tours are very popular, but do require a certain level of enthusiasm and we wanted to attract visitors who might not usually consider coming to Heritage Open Days.
We showed visitors an array of items from the collections, including a thirteenth century Gregory Cartulary, the Borough Charter of 1553, documents relating to William Shakespeare and his parents, early printed books, a C.17 handcoloured map of the Americas, a Third Folio and a quarto of Pericles. We also showed off items from our museum collection, including a bearded jug, a painting on boards, an inkwell and the lectern from St. James’ Church in Guild Street (demolished in the 1960s). Visitors could peruse scrapbooks from some of our local estate collections, learn about the history of the Birthplace as a tourist attraction and have a go at reading some of our many translations of the plays.
We had a Powerpoint on the big screen showing even more items from our collections and showing different aspects of our work. There were also displays on boards about the history of Bridge Street over six centuries, the careers of Dame Judi Dench, Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Henry Irving and “Conflict Through History” – showing how our library, archive, museum and theatre collections are linked and compliment each other.
We were thrilled to welcome 347 people from 27 different countries over the two days of the weekend. It was fantastic to meet people from as far afield as Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Brazil, the USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Latvia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, China and India. Many of those who filled out comment sheets had never attended a Heritage Open Days event before. We received many positive comments and enjoyed sharing our collections with such an enthusiastic audience. One person wrote on our comments board “I was was surprised how interesting it was“. This perhaps more than anything, made us feel the event was worthwhile. Many people are unaware of our collections or feel that this ‘sort of thing’ is not for them. We like to think that anyone/everyone can find something of interest/relevance in our historic collections (and indeed in Shakespeare’s works).
A big thank you to all of the staff and volunteers who helped before, during and after the event and to everyone who came along.