New initiatives, led by The British
Library, are encouraging collaboration between institutions with the
twin aims of raising the profile of Library collections through
collection level descriptions and combining strengths in specific
subject areas. The Touchstone database fulfils both these
aims for Shakespeare studies.
Despite Shakespeares eminence
and the strength of UK holdings no co-ordinated policy currently
exists and many significant collections remain relatively unknown. Touchstone
will be the complete online centre for Shakespeare studies and at
the cornerstone of the service will be a database documenting
significant collections for Shakespeare studies.
The countrys three specialist
Shakespeare libraries are all situated in the West Midlands and
belong, respectively, to the higher education, local authority, and
charitable sectors: Shakespeare Institute Library, Birmingham
Central Library, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. All three
of the partner collections contain unique special collections
material, much of which is note being exploited fully by
researchers, and in some cases has not yet been fully examined and
documented. These collections will form the basis for the first
stage of the database.
The long-term aim of the project is
much wider. National standards will be developed to support
collaborative mapping of collections and participation will be
broadened with the long-term aim of creating a comprehensive map of
UK Shakespeare resources.