We decided early on in the Shelley's Ghost website project that we could help to bring to life the stories and voices contained within the exhibition's manuscripts and letters if we recorded them being read and performed in a series of podcasts.
We started by working with the exhibiton curator, Stephen Hebron, to create a shortlist of exhibits that we felt would most benefit from being heard as well as seen. These included well-known poems by Shelley, extracts of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and personal family letters, including Harriet Shelley's suicide note. We were also keen to try and use budding actors and actresses from the University of Oxford student body so we contacted the University's Drama Officer who helped us to recruit seven willing volunteers.
We managed to do most of the recording in a day. The day itself was intense and punctuated with frequent and inevitable interruptions from noisy pipes, slamming doors and passing tourists chatting happily. We even had to banish a clock to the hallway for ticking too loudly.
The day was also extremely enjoyable. The enthusiasm of the student actors was quite inspiring and it was fascinating to see the variety of approaches and interpretations they brought to the pieces.
When we finished the recording, we asked the students how they had felt about the whole process. Perhaps my favourite summary of the day came from Annabel James (St. Hilda's College) who said: "It was great to take part in the Bodleian's Shelley exhibition because I learned so much about how an exhibition like this is put together, and I was able to work with letters and other documents that they don't show you in an A-level Frankenstein class!"