Unique collection of works on Shakespeare and his contemporaries

26 Oct 2022

The Shakespeare Library is open again for researchers and students following its relocation. A ceremony on 27 October will mark its reopening.

Prof. Claudia Olk

Prof. Claudia Olk

© Stephan Höck / LMU

The Shakespeare Library at LMU houses an extensive collection, unlike any other on the European mainland, of works relating to Shakespeare and English literature from the early modern period. Since its establishment in 1964 by LMU Professor of English Wolfgang Clemen, the library has steadily grown in academic importance and continuously expanded its holdings. After several decades at Schellingstraße 3, the library therefore urgently needed more space.

Professorin Claudia Olk, Chair of English Literature at LMU, President of the German Shakespeare Society, and Director of the Shakespeare Library, oversaw the move to the new premises on Amalienstraße, supervising the broader planning and numerous concrete details. First of all, the new site needed extensive renovation work. “At the beginning, especially, this was a huge effort,” she recalls. “Parts of the building were in a sorry state. But in retrospect, it was a blessing that we were able to design so much from scratch again at this stage.”

When the books were brought to their new home in August 2020, the coronavirus pandemic was with us. Although students and researchers were still able to take out volumes, visitors could not be allowed inside the library initially. And even when academic life resumed in person, pandemic-related restrictions and supply shortages delayed the installation of the rest of the furnishings in the historic building, which was constructed in 1860. Olk personally designed the desks for readers to work at and had them made out of solid wood. Now everything has been completed, and a few weeks ago, a new nameplate was fitted to the front door of the building. Olk is excited about the new possibilities offered by the relocation.

“The new premises provide us with even more opportunities than before to become a centre of academic excellence and to intensify our research collaborations,” says Olk. Munich is one of five cities worldwide to have a Shakespeare library, the others being Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Sydney, and Birmingham (England). “The opportunities for literary networking at LMU, with the proximity to the University Library, the State Library, the Lyrik Kabinett poetry center, the Literaturhaus, and the Monacensia archive and library, make our location attractive for researchers from all over Germany and abroad,” says the library director.

Open to the world

Prof. Claudia Olk with students

Prof. Claudia Olk with students in the Shakespeare Library | © Stephan Höck / LMU

The library has a strong international outlook and cultivates longstanding relationships with Shakespeare institutions and researchers worldwide. Olk’s further plans for the development of the library encompass the creation of a global network of Shakespeare-related libraries, the acquisition of the papers of Shakespeare scholars and translators, and the digitization of selected collections and catalogs.

Olk, who was appointed to her chair at LMU in 2019, is delighted that after 60 years the library is now located in an attractive new setting. “With the reopening ceremony, we’re looking back on the impressive history of this library. We’re taking the opportunity to thank those who shaped it during the last decades, and those who made its relocation possible. At the same time, we’re looking to the future and all the things we can accomplish here as a scholarly community.”

Ceremony with international guests

Among the renowned speakers at the event, Claudia Olk is particularly happy to welcome a guest who has close and longstanding ties with the library: Sir Stanley Wells, one the world’s best-known Shakespeare researchers. Wells was present at the founding of the library almost 60 years ago and did not want to pass up the opportunity to attend the reopening of this excellent research facility and say a few words, alongside his colleague Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. The reopening ceremony begins in the early evening at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities with welcome speeches by the President of LMU, Professor Bernd Huber, faculty dean Professor Hans-Jörg Schmid, and Professor Claudia Olk in her capacity as Director of the Shakespeare Library. Professor Ewan Fernie from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham will give the official address, entitled Shakespeare Libraries und kein Ende.

For more on the Munich Shakespeare Library, see:

Ceremony: Official re-opening of the Munich Shakespeare Library

The Shakespeare Library

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