Oxford and Straton-Upon-Avon

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Everyone met in the courtyard at 6:40 a.m. to go by motor coach to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the day. Our tour included a brief stop in Oxford for a quick look around. The cool, damp weather inspired several of us to purchase Oxford University hoodies as we made a quick tour of the shops. Some of the more mature library ladies also found a tea house and enjoyed a light meal there. We then boarded the coach and proceeded on to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The places we visited in Stratford-Upon-Avon included Shakespeare’s birthplace with its house and workshop, the beautiful gardens, Hall’s Croft, and New Place/Nash’s House.

As one of the three extra site visits that we were to make, Libby, Edie, Nancy, Mary, and I were lucky enough to visit the Shakespeare Centre Library. The librarians there seemed quite pleased to give us a brief overview and tour of the reading room and to answer our questions about the facility, its collections, and the services provided.

The Shakespeare Centre Library is a reference only collection that deals with Shakespeare’s life, work and times. The reading room itself includes books and periodicals, but the vaults house a wide selection of items including the production and administrative archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company, collections of pictures and images, videos, prompt books for productions since 1980, online databases, and finding aides for the various collections, and much more.

To find items in the collection, there is a card catalog that has not been updated since 2001 and an online catalog of items acquired since 2001. Readers may make viewing requests in person, or they may do so in advance of a visit to the library by accessing the online catalog. Since the stacks are closed, all items are retrieved from the vaults by staff members and must be viewed in the reading room under supervision.

Researchers may find the following URLs helpful:

Shakespeare Centre Library Homepage and Online Catalog www.shakespeare.org.uk/main/3/313
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust www.shakespeare.org.uk/main/library
Image collection from Windows on Warwickshire http://www.windowsonwarwickshire.org.uk/
Royal Shakespeare Company Pictures and Exhibitions www.rsc.org/uk/picturesandexhibitions/jsp/index.jsp

In addition, The Shakespeare Bibliography database and the Dictionary of National Biography are available free of charge at the Shakespeare Centre Library.

We had a nice dinner at the Dirty Duck/White Swan Pub, and ended the evening by seeing a very unique production of Macbeth at the Swan Theatre. The first half of the production was lost on me because I had the unfortunate luck to be seated behind a support beam. After intermission, I was able to locate a better spot to enjoy the remainder of the play. I must say that the costumes and props were reminiscent of “Matrix meets Pirates of the Caribbean” and not quite what I had expected. Someone was definitely thinking outside the box.

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