Category Archives: nypl

Farewell to Shelley’s Ghost at the Bodleian

Alison Prince, Web Manager

The last day of the Shelley’s Ghost exhibition at the Bodleian was 27 March 2011. Sadly, it has now been taken down but only to make way for the next exciting installment, Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible, which opens on 22 April. It will live on, however, through the

Shelley’s Ghost exhibition website, which will be staying live and continuing to make the objects available in a virtual sense to interested audiences around the world. A version of the exhibition will also be showing at The New York Public Library in 2012.

Throughout the whole process of planning and showing the exhibition, the Communications team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the message out about Shelley’s Ghost and the fascinating stories and objects it was showcasing. I think we should also thank Danny Boyle for showing his Frankenstein at the opportune moment when his audiences were able to come and see the real thing here!

By way of farewell, I thought it would be nice to share some of our amazing media coverage from the exhibition. Here are few examples of the great things that were written:

LA Times – 25 March 2011
Paul Edmonson’s blog post – 21 March 2011
The One Show – 18 February 2011
Times Higher Education – 17 February 2011
BBC Arts blog – 15 February 2011
BBC News – 15 February 2011
Culture 24 -3 December 2010
Mail Online – 30 November 2010

Choosing exhibits for Shelley’s Ghost

Stephen Hebron, Exhibition Curator

Curating an exhibition is, like writing, a proces of looking things over and leaving things out. There are many 100s of items in the Shelley collections at the Bodleian alone, from notebooks, journals and letters to portraits and personal relics; Shelley’s Ghost contains just 117 exhibits in total and includes 12 on loan from The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, New York Public Library. Often what seems particularly fine early on gets rejected later on as the seemingly endless lists of possible exhibits gets steadily whittled down. You have to be ruthless. Does the object help with the story that the exhibition is telling? Is it interesting to look at? More prosaically, but just as importantly, will it fit? But, going back to the writing analogy, if rejected words get struck out, rejected exhibits are not, of course, disposed of – they remain on the shelves, ready to be consulted by researchers and, maybe, displayed in future exhibitions.

The idea behind the Shelley’s Ghost exhibition

Stephen Hebron, Exhibition Curator

After fifteen years of producing literary exhibitions (on, among others, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Tennyson and Dante) I was delighted to be asked by the Bodleian to curate Shelley’s Ghost. I remembered the great exhibition at the Bodleian, Shelley’s Guitar, from 1992 (the bicentenary of the poet’s birth) but after the Library’s purchase of the Abinger papers in 2004 I could see an opportunity for an exhibition on the whole family: not just Shelley himself but Mary Shelley, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and two less well-known but fascinating figures, Sir Percy and Jane, Lady Shelley. As well as the wonderful manuscripts, books and relics in the Bodleian, there was a chance to exhibit things that had never been seen before: the new portrait identified as Mary Shelley, and her travelling dressing-case. And the chance to work with The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at New York Public Library as well made the whole thing more attractive.

Behind the scenes of Shelley’s Ghost

Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family is the winter 2010 exhibition from the Bodleian Libraries in partnership with the New York Public Library. As well as the physical exhibition that you can walk around, Shelley’s Ghost is also supported by an online exhibition ( and an accompanying book of the same name.

The exhibition brings together manuscripts, letters and personal relics associated with one of our greatest literary families: Percy Bysshe Shelley; his wife, Mary Shelley; and her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Exhibits include Shelley’s notebooks, Mary Shelley’s hand written draft of Frankenstein, the suicide letter of Shelley’s first wife, a necklace made of Mary Wollstonecraft’s hair and Godwin’s Political Justice.

An exhibition is all about celebrating and sharing treasures, literary treasures in this case, and telling their stories. What you often don’t hear is the story of how an exhibition is conceived and created, and the stories of the people that make it happen.

This blog tells those stories and aims to provide a snapshot of life behind the scenes of a major exhibition.