Just to the left of the Shakespeare Centre on Henley Street you’ll see the store ‘Not Just Shakespeare: Tourist Information and Gifts.’ It probably won’t take you too long to realize the store is run-down and empty, seemingly suggesting that nothing but Shakespeare can survive in Stratford-upon-Avon.
That said, the Trust is a company like many others in that the day-to-day operations and projects of several departments do not require Shakespearian expertise, but rather the understanding of how to strategically engage with audiences and the technical set of skills to carry that strategy out. It’s the same reason health care providers may not all know how to cure diseases, but they can point you to the resources that would. Similarly, the Learning, Research, and Collections teams may be the experts in all things Shakespeare, while the Digital, Marketing, and Creative Programming teams would be the experts in their respective fields.
That is the unique opportunity of working at the Trust – you gain perspective in all of these different paths that you would not have in a less expansive organization. There is room to develop and put to use whatever skills you have – whether that is web development, event planning, communications, archives and collections – you name it, and there’s a 93.8% chance* that you can do it here.
As part of the digital team, I had the flexibility to immerse myself in projects that best suited my previous knowledge as well as the skills I wanted to learn and develop – such as user research, web analytics, and content development. However, there is the potential here for any number of projects and each intern’s experience will be different from the next because each individual will bring to the table a different set of past experiences, current skills, and future dreams.
Lest future interns be hesitant, I assure you that you don’t have to write a dissertation on Shakespeare to be able to thrive at this organization. At the beginning of my time here, I could count the Shakespeare plays I knew well enough to summarize on one hand and the plays I knew well enough to quote on three fingers. I was not a huge Shakespeare fan (I think it’s too late now to kick me out for saying that), having always been intimidated by the vast, and what I perceived as ‘highbrow’, literary and theatrical scholarship surrounding him and his works. But what my projects this summer have taught me is that what you don’t know, you can Google. Even if I really didn’t know the first thing about Shakespeare going into this internship, I came to realize that most of the Trust’s digital audiences are looking for content that is easy to follow and digest anyway, not for the deepest analysis of Pericles, The Prince of Tyre. So my lack of expertise was actually helpful in coming in and looking at our existing Shakespedia content with fresh eyes. I could more easily put myself in the shoes of those students and others that come to our website because I too was someone who knew a little bit and wanted to know more, but who didn’t want to wade through the scholarly jargon.
And as I began doing even just cursory user research and re-working old content this summer, the power of Shakespeare started to sink in. From learning the odd facts (i.e. he invented the word skim-milk!) to watching Dame Judi Dench’s Shakespearian monologues, I slowly but surely have come to love Shakespeare and the genius wordsmith he was. Be forewarned, you probably will too.
*There is no actual data supporting this statistic; contact Trina Harding for more information about placement with specific departments and projects.