Creative Cataloguing

Creative Cataloguing is a research project looking at the connections between Shakespearean texts and material culture.

This project is being undertaken by Peter Hewitt, an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded collaborative doctoral student. As well as generating new knowledge about the collections through object-based research, he is developing a new 'creative cataloguing' system which will share this knowledge with the public and scholars. He is particularly interested in the connections between early modern texts (specifically Shakespeare) and material culture, and the folkloric and 'magical' qualities of the materials that compose objects.

The catalogue consists of over seventy objects so far, from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s collections.  It highlights some of the most interesting items in the collection, while addressing current methodological problems and debates.  Most of the items date roughly from 1500-1750, although later items of specific Shakespearian interest are also included. The catalogue presents original research, revealing neglected and uncatalogued objects, and gives us a wider understanding of the history of the collection.  In its current form, it is a working model for an expanded museum catalogue, designed to host interconnected entries and thematic tagging, and to potentially encourage ‘crowd-sourcing’ or visitor participation.

Within the catalogue objects are presented as primary sources that reveal completely new knowledge about the cultural history of the Shakespeare’s England.  They fall into six general themes:

  • Domestic & Family Life
  • Identity
  • Civic Life in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Religion & Folk Beliefs
  • Trade and Exchange
  • Shakespeare

The new research can be used by a variety of communities:  it is scholarly in character and addresses the interests of cultural historians; the methodology provides transparent access to collections history and provenance which meets the interests and demands of university and museum professionals.  In addition, it is hoped that the knowledge here will be recognised as fluid and unsettled, and scholars and the public have a role in shaping the catalogue.

Peter also regularly contributes to the Collections blog series Shakespeare's World in 100 Objects on our Finding Shakespeare blog site.