Written By: Marlinda Gallardo

Edited By: Adina Vega

Located a block from the US Capitol is a building that looks like all the rest: white Georgia marble that mimics nearby buildings such as the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. But as you step inside, you are transported back to the 16th- and 17th-century English Renaissance. Surrounded by intricate wood paneling, ornamental floor tile, stunning stained glass windows, charming large fireplaces, and magnificent high cathedral ceilings, you think this must be a dream. This is no dream, my friend. This is the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Research rare materials in the Reading Room.

In 1932, Henry and Emily Folger gifted the American people their personal assemblage of Shakespeare paraphernalia. Decades of dedicated collecting made this the world’s largest repertoire of Shakespeare material. The collection includes printed books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and other works of art. It also boasts a wealth of performance history, from playbills to films, recordings, and stage costumes. In addition to the rare material collection, the Folger Shakespeare Library holds a collection of over 100,000 monographs, periodicals, and electronic resources published between the 1830s and the present related to the understanding and interpretation of Shakespeare, his works and impact, and the early modern world.

It is no wonder that the Folger Shakespeare Library is listed in the prestigious National Register of Historic Places; the building and its interior are like scenes copied from one of Shakespeare’s plays. The 131-foot Reading Room is built like the great hall of a majestic Elizabethan house. At the west end of the Reading Room is a flawless stained-glass window depicting the Seven Ages of Man from Jaques’s speech in As You Like It. Mimicking an English Renaissance inn is the Elizabethan Theater. The intimate theater is the setting for Folger Theatre productions, early music concerts by the Folger Consort, O.B. Hardison Poetry programs, family activities, and many education programs, including the Folger’s student festivals.

Watch a live performance of one of Shakespeare’s Plays at the Folger Theater.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is currently closed to the public due to major renovations. Two new exhibition halls will be added: Shakespeare Exhibition Hall, where all 82 coveted First Folios will be displayed, and Stuart and Mimi Rose Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibition Hall, where rare items will be taken from vaults and displayed in public. The Folger Shakespeare Library reopens in June 2024. Start planning your trip today! Until then, check out the wealth of free online resources the Folger Shakespeare Library provides here.

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it,” Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, undoubtedly foreshadowing what it’s like to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Categories: iSchool SLA


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