Connecting Shakespeare


A collaborative R&D project between the Folger Shakespeare Library and the HRI Digital team to develop a federated semantic search and discovery service for the Folger’s multiple, online resources.

Project Status:



Collaborative R&D Award (University of Sheffield)


University of Sheffield
Folger Shakespeare Library


digital archive, early modern period, English studies, federated searching, historical records, history, linked data, manuscripts, online resource, searchable database


CSS, HTML, Lucene, MySQL, Natural Language Processing, PHP, XML

Image Credits: ‘Copy of The history of King Henry the Fourth, after 1598’, folios 38v – 39r. Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.34. Digital Image Filename 50624.

Project Description

The Folger Shakespeare Library, located on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials and other early modern books, manuscripts and works of art. Through its collections, online presence and research institute, the Folger is a world-class resource for research and public engagement related to Shakespeare and the other artists, thinkers, scientists and politicians of his age.

Connecting Shakespeare is a collaborative R&D project between the Folger and the HRI Digital team at the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute. Drawing on the HRI’s technical expertise, particularly in the areas of natural language processing and web services research, the partnership will develop a federated semantic search and discovery service for the Folger’s multiple, online resources:

  • The collection catalogue Hamnet which currently comprises approximately 280,000 descriptive, bibliographic records.
  • The Digital Image Collection which currently comprises 50,000 objects and associated metadata.
  • The Folgerpedia wiki, a forthcoming project that will serve as a guide to the Folger’s collections, activities, and history, edited by Folger staff members and invited guest editors.

We will use natural language processing techniques for automating record linkage across the collections and add value to the service by incorporating searchable full-text transcriptions where possible using EEBO-TCP texts.

Our ambition is for Connecting Shakespeare to emerge as the world’s de facto first point of call for research into primary sources relating to Shakespeare and the early modern period. Further, we are seeking to use this service as a fulcrum for a range of transatlantic digital research collaborations involving the Folger Library, academics from the University of Sheffield, and a range of other stakeholders.

Related links

Project Team

  • Eric Johnson (Director of Digital Access – Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Dr Erin Blake (Curator of Art and Special Collections, Interim Head of Collection Information Services and Cataloging – Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Michael Poston (Database Applications Developer – Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Katherine Rogers (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Matthew Groves (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Michael Pidd (Principal Investigator – University of Sheffield)