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The Collation

Continuing the celebration: Preserving birthday-related digital ephemera

Shakespeare Statue - Folger Cataloging

Taking a break from birthday festivities in the Folger Cataloging Office.

It’s official: the Bard doesn’t look a day over 425.

450 years have now passed since William Shakespeare’s birth and it’s clear he is just as relevant and as loved as ever before. April 23, 2014 was marked with celebrations, events, and jovial birthday wishes from modern-day readers, scholars, and enthusiasts worldwide.

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and birthday celebrations during his time were likely to be much different than the festivities of today; many of which are now documented or take place online through web articles, social media conversations, and digital interaction.

While the day may have come and gone, online celebrations for Shakespeare’s 450th birthday are still alive and well. Thanks to web archiving services and open-source digital preservation tools,  we are now able to capture, preserve, and analyze some of the exciting pieces of digital ephemera created in response to this momentous occasion.

#Shax450 Tweet Archive and Visualization 


In the interest of accuracy, shouldn’t you be discussing William Shakespeare’s *presumed* birthday? We don’t know when he was born, only when he was baptized an indeterminate few days later. So 23 April — St George’s Day — has always seemed like a fitting day on which he *should have* been born, but we really don’t know. Please don’t let this long-standing and crowd-pleasing conjecture harden into fact in your own website.

William Ingram — April 29, 2014


Yes, April 23rd is Shakespeare’s presumed birthday (and his deathday), but as you note, it is the date on which we, and the rest of the Shakespeare world, have long celebrated his birthday. If this was a post looking at his biography, more attention to the specifics of the date would have been appropriate, but as an examination of the far-flung digital celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of his birth, I think we’re okay in referring to the 23rd as his birthday.

Sarah Werner — April 29, 2014


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