The Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, June 2022.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already October–it feels like I was just in Stratford doing some research for my dissertation yesterday, but it has been three months. At the end of last year, I was awarded funds from MSU’s College of Arts and Letters to conduct research abroad. As such, I spent the end of June in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, which is not only the focus of one of my dissertation chapters but also the basis for my CHI project from last year. While in Stratford, I photographed the locations I had included on my Stratford Memory Map project so I could replace the photos I had used with my ones that I own. Previously, my website used photographs labeled for reuse under Creative Commons licenses. Of course, now that I’ve left Stratford I have thought of all sorts of additional images I should have taken that I might use in the next phase of my project. My plan is to return to Stratford to conduct further research next year, so I’m hopeful I will be able to collect materials that will improve on the CHI project I end up developing this year. 

While I did have a lovely time walking around Stratford taking new photos for my website, I also visited the Reading Room of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT). The SBT houses one of the largest collections of Shakespeare related materials in the world, but due to covid related restrictions I was only able to book eight hours of research time throughout the course of a week. There were also digitization projects underway and building renovations that made some portions of the collection inaccessible–such as the visitor logs for the different heritage sites managed by the SBT. However, I was able to access a variety of prompt books and first-hand accounts of visitors to Stratford during the Victorian period, both of which were significant to my dissertation and CHI project. Additionally, I was able to begin looking through the collection of guidebooks, although in the time allotted I was only able to look through a small portion of them. Some of the guidebooks were ones I had been able to access online via Google Books, but there were a number of others that I had found no other record for online.

It was enlightening to walk around the town after I had spent last year’s fellowship working on mapping it. I referenced some of the guidebooks I had used in my project and tried to view these heritage sites from the perspective of their authors. Some locations, such as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, seemed almost the same as described by these Victorian tour guides. However, it was hard to view locations like the Birthplace amidst the crowded tour groups and modern shops and imagine the same place described in the guidebooks (I was incredibly lucky to get the above picture with no one standing in front of the Birthplace–although you can see some ongoing restoration work). For this year’s project, I hope to in some way reflect how the town has changed (and continues to change) over time. I want to address the narratives that are created through these sites–particularly in regard to the construction of Englishness–and trace how these narratives are restructured as time passes.