Helen Hopkins


Helen A. Hopkins is currently studying for an AHRC Midland3Cities funded collaborative PhD on “International Responses to Shakespeare in the Collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust” with Birmingham City University and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The project is further supported by the National Productivity Investment Fund award, which, along with Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse facility, aims to engage industry with research and will provide the opportunity to develop products as part of the project. This will take the form of a range of souvenirs for sale in the SBT’s gift shops that are inspired by the International Collection.

Helen has a background in English Literary Studies with an MRes in Early Modern Studies which focused on maternity in Shakespearean Comedy and published an article on Maternity and Absence in Shakespearean Romance in 2016. Helen is enjoying learning new approaches to her object-oriented PhD and seeing intersections with the skills she has developed in her previous work.


Difficult Histories: Prerogatives, Agendas, and Collaboration at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

By delineating the range of an international collection from the holdings at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, my PhD will generate a narrative of the role of Shakespeare in the world through the varying modes of appropriation, consumption, and negotiation that are demonstrated by the collection items. An ongoing critique of the role and policies of the SBT within this narrative, as well as of the collection itself, will provide a framework for future international collecting policies and a model for collections that promote inclusion and diversity in world-wide contexts.

This paper will discuss my first-year as a researcher working in-house at this prominent cultural institution. It will detail the benefits of working alongside experienced curators and archivists, with free access to the collections, in a prime position to be part of conversations about collections management, policies, and day-to-day processes. It will also discuss the challenges faced by conflicts between the agenda of my project and that of the SBT. Alongside the concerns that will arise with regards to the ‘difficult histories’ I am discovering, my research is further complicated by international items that have not been accessioned because they did not fit within the (economically restricted) collections policy, and items that have no provenance attached due to the agenda of the SBT at the point of accession. I will discuss my approach to these issues as factors of my study that provide fodder for my critique of the collections as much as they hinder my collection of data.