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Play On! Introducing the Shakespeare and Music Online Exhibition

Read about the intern who started "Shakespeare and Music": her brainstorming process, her ambition, and what she wanted to give to everyone throughout this online exhibition.


This is the first in a new blog series about the forthcoming online exhibition on "Shakespeare and Music."

I’m a cultural intern undertaking a six-month placement in the Collections Department at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, supported by the University of Birmingham. My job is to develop an online exhibition for the Birthplace Trust  on the subject of "Shakespeare and Music" over the next few months. I'm very excited to be here and to be working on such an interesting topic. I'll be blogging about the exhibition as it develops. In this first blog, I thought I’d let you know what I’ve been doing so far, and how the exhibition is shaping up.

This is my sixth week working at the Trust, and I’ve already been given a great insight into how a heritage organisation works, and the activity that goes on in the Collections Department. I was initially taken around to each of the Trust’s five historic properties to gain an idea of the visitor experience that the Trust provides. While it was fascinating to see all of the houses, it also served as a reminder that members of the public do actually see and appreciate the work that goes on here. This may seem obvious, but it can be hard to remember when your office is tucked away in the labyrinthine Shakespeare Centre, away from the visitors! I want to make sure that my exhibition creates an engaging online space so that people can learn more about Shakespeare and the Birthplace Trust’s collections from home too.

I was also given a tour around the Trust’s archives and collections, the reading room and the stacks: the source of the material for my online exhibition. There are some fascinating and sometimes unexpected items in the archives, and the variety of items is huge. While selecting the most appropriate artefacts to showcase in the online exhibition will be challenging, it’s very exciting to be able to work with original artefacts, which is a new experience for me!

So far I’ve been researching existing online exhibitions (some more successful than others) to get an idea of the different content and design choices that other organisations have made, and to start thinking about the look and feel of my own exhibition. I’ve also started looking at the marketing and associated events surrounding the exhibition. These are all really important elements for bringing the exhibition together, presenting it to the public, and raising awareness of the exhibition and its place in the Trust’s overarching theme of Shakespeare and Music for 2013.

However, my main priority at the moment is to work out exactly what my online exhibition is all about. “Shakespeare and Music” is a vast subject with many different potential approaches. The exhibitions could explore the music of Shakespeare’s time, or his use of music and musical references within the plays. The way this music has been performed and developed within the theatre over the years is also interesting. There is a vast range of music inspired and influenced by Shakespeare from the last four hundred years right up to the present day which could be explored as well. As well as pursuing these approaches, I’ve been hunting through the catalogues to find relevant artefacts, and I’ve been trying to draw all this together into some key themes, such as Love and Music, and Magical Music.

It’s quite a hectic development stage, but this is where my ideas will really start coming together. Current ideas include a Shakespeare Jukebox, interactive timelines, and possibly a Top Ten Charts list for Shakespeare-related music. My next post will hopefully give a clearer idea of what you’ll be able to see in the exhibition - watch this space to find out more!

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