Shakespeare archive could move from Henley Street to new home in Stratford
VAST quantities of precious archives relating to Shakespeare and the history of Stratford could be moved to an industrial estate on the edge of the town because of pressures on space.
The items would include priceless documents like three First Folios of Shakespeare’s plays – published in 1623 – that are in the possession of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Currently the trust has 28,743 books, 171,146 archive records and 6,962 museum items in its archive. But it says the collection is becoming too big to continue being housed in the Shakespeare Centre next to Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street in the centre of the town.
One location being considered by the trust as an alternative venue for the archives is a building on the Avenue Farm industrial estate off Birmingham Road.
It is already being thought in some quarters that the trust will have to manage this issue “with great delicacy” because of the potential controversy it could ignite.
In a statement to the Herald this week a trust spokesperson said: “Since the completion of the Shakespeare Centre in 1964, we have stored our extensive collection of objects connected to the life, times and works of William Shakespeare, as well as the civic records for Stratford-upon-Avon, within the collections store of the building.
“While the collections and archives continue to be well maintained and conserved, there are challenges around the space and overall condition of the Shakespeare Centre.
“As these issues will take time to be resolved, we are exploring the feasibility of a range of other options. No decisions have been made at this time.
“As part of the ongoing investigation work, we are reviewing a building that has the potential to suit our collections storage and access needs in the medium term.”
The trust has put in a “change of use” application on the building at Avenue Farm to Stratford District Council’s planning department.
The spokesperson added: “Our aim is to provide improved public access and increase our capacity, which will enable us to continue celebrating Shakespeare and Stratford’s impact on the world, helping to support our long-term strategic aspiration of developing a World Shakespeare Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon.”
The World Shakespeare Museum is a key part of the Gateway Project, the site that extends from the junction of Arden Street and Birmingham Road through to Windsor Street.
Last week the Herald reported that hopes were rising of an imminent breakthrough in getting the Gateway Project moving after ten years of delay and frustration.
The trust spokesperson said: “The change of use application submitted to Stratford-on-Avon District Council is a necessary part of the investigation process and we will look forward to engaging with stakeholders and partners to scope the next phase of this work.”
They added: “Our primary concern is always the safety and protection of our collections and any actions we take in the future would absolutely have to meet the highest environmental and security standards.
“Ultimately we would move the entire collection to a new building and, as part of the move, we would ensure that access to the collection is enhanced on site.”
The spokesperson concluded: “Currently, our collection includes over one million individual items, collected over the lifetime of the trust. As an organisation that celebrates Shakespeare’s enduring legacy we are committed to ensuring his continued impact is reflected in our collections and as such, continue to accept and find new items.”