The new exhibition spaces will include Folger’s first permanent Shakespeare exhibition. All 82 copies of the Folger’s Shakespeare First Folios - over a third of the copies remaining in the world - will be publicly displayed together for the first time in a 20ft-long visible vault. The First Folios will be surrounded by interactive experiences inviting visitors of all ages to explore Shakespeare, his works and world, and their connection to our own time. “Henry and Emily Folger’s collection of First Folios have long been a source of fascination,” says Greg Prickman, Eric Weinmann Librarian and Director of Collections. “For the first time, we are able to share all of the Folger’s Folios with all of our visitors, no matter if they are longtime lovers of Shakespeare, casual fans, or just plain curious.”
New and renovated spaces expand opportunities to build connections between artists, programs, and the building and gardens. Highlights include Folger commissions of three contemporary artists: US Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Rita Dove has written a new poem that will welcome visitors into the west gardens; renowned artist Fred Wilson, known for reframing cultural symbols that encourage viewers to reconsider social, racial, and historical narratives, is creating a piece to be displayed in conversation with the Folger’s 1579 “Sieve” portrait of Queen Elizabeth I; and innovative artist Anke Neuman, whose installations are created from artisan-made paper that includes optic fibers, is creating a paper light sculpture to hang in the stairwell connecting the new east entrance lobby and the historic theater lobby.
The $80.5 million renovation project, designed by the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of KieranTimberlake, is constructing a new, 12,000-square-foot public wing under the Folger’s original Paul Philippe Cret 1932 building, a historic landmark located a block from the US Capitol. The new Adams Pavilion, made possible by a generous gift from Richard L. Adams and Family, includes two large exhibition halls, a learning lab, expansive lobbies, a new gift shop, and enhanced accessibility throughout the building. The renovation is also adding collaborative research spaces, a café, social gathering spots inside and outside the building, and new gardens designed by landscape architect OLIN. The project is funded by a combination of philanthropic support and institutional resources.
Visitors will experience unprecedented access to the Folger collection in two modern, state of the art exhibition halls totaling 6,000 square feet, the Shakespeare Exhibition Hall and the Stuart and Mimi Rose Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibition Hall. In addition to the display of all 82 of the Folger’s Shakespeare First Folios, a printing press - modeled on ones that printed the 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s plays - is close by in the Shakespeare Exhibition Hall.
Many rarely seen items from the Folger collection will be on exhibit, including Henry VIII’s schoolbook; the Pavier Quartos; and artifacts from actor Earle Hyman, who played Hamlet in a groundbreaking production at DC’s Howard University in 1951. The Stuart and Mimi Rose Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibition Hall is a space where a dedicated gallery will host a range of changing exhibitions, beginning with a stunning display of books and other objects from the extraordinary collection of Stuart Rose.