Nell Gwyn, famous English actress and mistress of Charles II who worked her way into the Drury Lane Theatre group by gelling oranges, and David Garrick, a member of Dr. Johnson's group and renowned for his Shakespeare characterizations, are only two of the portraits on view in the Widener Theatrical Collection located on the top floor of Widener.
There is housed the greatest collection of English and American dramatic memorabilia in the world. It is made up of books, letters, magazine and newspaper clippings, manuscripts, photographs, and hundreds of thousands of play bills, covering every conceivable phase of theatrical history from the period of the Restoration to the present time.
The nucleus of this collection was the gift in 1915 of the dramatic library of Robert Gould Shaw '69, to which was added two years later the great library of Evert Jansen Wendell '82. Around these two bequests the collection has been built up more and more until it has reached its present tremendous proportions.
Among the exhibits permanently on view, there are many of interest. Probably most outstanding and of most value to students is the large scale model of the Globe Theatre in London where many of Shakespeare's plays were produced and where the poet himself acted. It is built to scale and all stage properties are shown with great care as are the details of the pit and galleries.
Then, too, there are the scales, dagger, and document used by Edmund Keane in his portrayal of Shylock in the "Merchant of Venice," a candle snuffer used by Ellen Terry, and a bronze statue of Sarah Bernhardt presented to her by the magician Houdini.
The Theatre Collection is maintained primarily for students and writers interested in drama, and with this in view the thousands of items of material have been arranged in a simple and logical manner, while elaborate alphabetical and chronological card files make everything easily and quickly accessible.