As our museum stock continues its move to its new home, Events Assistant Hester Broad tells us about some gems from our costume collection that have been rediscovered.

Since we started the relocation in April, we have packed and moved almost 4,000 items from the RSC museum collection. Meanwhile we have also been carefully checking each item for any evidence of pests while we pack them ready for transit. It’s been a long process but thoroughly rewarding.

We are six months into the moving project and have managed to move everything to the new facility. However, the job is not yet over; we still have to unpack everything at the other end and find each item its new permanent home.

One of the exciting parts about the project has been the checking of each item and garment. It has been a great opportunity to see gems such as Juliet Stevenson’s Titania costume from the 1981 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a spectacle to behold, from the delicate sari material to the sparkles coming off the attached jewels and sequins.

Three costumes from our collection - two dresses and a golden crown.
l-r: Juliet Stevenson's Titania dress; Judi Dench's Adriana dress; Michael Gambon's King Lear crown.

A name which has cropped up time and time again is the fabulous Judi Dench. A stand-out item for me is one of her costumes from a 1976 production of The Comedy of Errors, where she played Adriana. She had such an array of costumes in the show, but the orange dress with butterflies was one of the first items I checked for any moths before packing away. You’ll be pleased to hear she is safe from any moth damage, which is a big relief.

We have now started to rehang all the costumes in the newly-built wardrobes and have discovered that the collection holds over 70 costumes from productions of Hamlet alone, all produced by the RSC, with the earliest dating back to 1958. However, the play with the largest collection is King Lear, which provides almost 100 individual costumes.

The move to a new store is necessary because the current storage facility is full to capacity. The new setup will allow us to improve the environmental conditions needed to preserve the pieces.

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