We have rediscovered some real treasures as our extensive collection of props and costumes is moved to its new home.
In April 2021, we began work on the relocation of the RSC’s extensive museum collection. From costumes to old props, lights to furniture from the original 1879 theatre, everything has been carefully saved and preserved. After so many decades of operating, our collection measures in the thousands.
Not all of our props, costumes and equipment go into the collection; in fact, only about 10 items are added every year. As an accredited museum, the chosen items must showcase the best of the RSC's work and help to ensure a good representation of the range of our plays, history, diversity, skills and cultural significance. Items that don't make the cut are often made available for hire from our store.
The move is necessary because the current storage facility is full to capacity and the new set up will allow the team to improve the environmental conditions needed to preserve the pieces. The items will be closer to the main RSC theatres in central Stratford, giving staff easier access to the collection and a better space to work in.
Ensuring the older and more delicate items are ready for moving can be a challenge, but the project has brought out pieces that have both theatrical significance and historical importance.
Our Collections Packer Elizabeth Jeffery said: "Last week was particularly exciting as we carefully prepared an oak lectern that once belonged to 19th century actor Ellen Terry. The lectern dates from 1609 and is a very special example of 17th century furniture. We actually own several items from this era and it is a privilege to be able to handle them as they bring history to life. We also packed up a gorgeous clock that stood in the 1932 theatre, reminding audiences how much of the interval they had left, and some BAFTAs won by Peggy Ashcroft."
We are now working our way carefully through the Props Store, before starting work on the immense costume collection.