Books have always been a major resource for storytellers, especially in countries where the oral tradition has been broken. The book collection at Mythstories museum grew from just under 50 in 1999 to just under 5,000 in 2021 when the collection was transferred to The Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic in Todmorden, where they can be studied today.
A Brief History…
When Mythstories museum first opened its doors to the public in February 1999 in Carnarvon Lane in Shrewsbury the only books on display were in a ‘chained library‘. In a salute to Hereford Cathedral’s medieval chained library we wanted to make it clear that books were precious reference resources for storytellers. The titles included Shropshire Books titles of local interest and traditional story collections donated by Oxford University Press and Canongate Books.
It was then that we learned that the Society for Storyteller had a goal of curating a specialised library for storytellers and we teamed up with storyteller Amy Douglas the SfS Director who was leading on this venture to try to secure a home for the first books that had been donated by the estate of storyteller and theatrical costumier Margaret Leona.
After a number of attempts to secure a sole use site for the library it was decided that the collection would be displayed together with Mythstories‘ books in the relocated museum at The Morgan Library in Wem, North Shropshire. Agreements were signed and the library finally took its place in the Morgan Library office displayed on beautiful solid oak bookcases donated by Shropshire Library Services in 2003.
Over the years the library grew with many donations from the general public as well as from storytelling members of the Society for Storytelling. The library also took on a collection of cassette tapes and CDs of storytelling performers, and made available equipment and headphones so visitors could relax and listen as well as read in the library space.
Mythstories team of volunteers and work experience students took on the role as curators cataloguing and scanning each title. This job seemed never ending; as soon as titles were catalogued more were received.
In 2008 a computer was added holding two archives:
• The LCIS Archive of performance storytelling contains storytelling
performances, talks and interviews collected between 1983 and 2007.
• ‘Breaking the Silence’ an oral archive of stories and life-stories from places in what is now the two counties of Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire collected in the early 1990s by storyteller Helen East for Shropshire Library Services and funded by Arts Council West Midlands Arts.
Still books continued flow in to augment the collection…
When Mythstories museum moved to University Centre Shrewsbury in 2019 the book collection was spread throughout public spaces in the Guildhall building to allow easy access for students and academics as well as visiting storytellers and museum visitors.
Finally in 2022 when the museum closed to the public the museum moved on to its new custodians at The Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic where it is still growing and welcoming researchers and readers.