So as it would turn out, digitizing media is really, really handy. For
one thing, it allows you to search for terms such as “Shakespeare”
across hundreds of archived items at once, with nearly instantaneous
results. This is particularly handy, for example, if you want to get
that broader picture I was talking about in my last post. Because the
Claremont Colleges Digital Library (CCDL) has archived many letters,
playbills, programs, photographs and even sheet music from the
Philbrick Collection and beyond, the term “Shakespeare” came up quite
frequently. It was through this simple search that I found out about
David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, and William Poel.
For one thing, these names did not appear very often in the Philbrick Collection, specifically in the corner of the massive collection in which I was digging. There are many subseries – to use the archivist’s term – within the broader picture. After looking in metadata (the data about the item, such as its name, medium, date, where it is shelved) about many Henry Irving and Ellen Terry items, I found other useful tags that led me to the Dr. Walter Lindley Scrapbooks, and the Autograph Letter series within the Philbrick. Dr. Walter Lindley, as it would turn out, was a resident of Los Angeles and physician at the turn of the 20th century who had a penchant for collection items about Shakespeare, as well as travel and California health. The entire collection is on view on CCDL if you are curious!
As it would turn out, Lindley has not only David Garrick’s will and testament, but plenty of newspaper clippings, programs and illustrations about Garrick’s role as a Shakespearean actor in the mid-18th century. It was particularly exciting to open up a box and find an enormous ribbon-bound collection of papers written in some 400 year old lawyer’s hand, transcribing the will and testament of David Garrick, who I was about to learn was the big name in reviving Shakespeare. But it was even more thrilling to keep going, and to find folders upon folders of newspaper clippings that described a “Shakespeare Jubilee” and poetry mourning the loss of a bard (Garrick) as great and wonderful as the Bard himself!
My hypothesis, it seemed, continued to be correct: the collections here focus on people, networks of people and correspondences. The items here documenting their accomplishments throughout their life. But since part of each person’s achievements in life included performing Shakespeare, then the history of Shakespearean performance was present, too! This meant that the exhibit would focus around these people, and their roles as performers that revived Shakespeare from century to century.