Folger Shakespeare Library to open new galleries, café, and shop June 21

Following a four-year renovation, historic building reimagined with welcoming and accessible new amenities.

The Folger Shakespeare Library announced that its historic home on Capitol Hill will reopen on Friday, June 21, 2024. The $80.5 million renovation has made the historic building accessible and added a new public wing, the Adams Pavilion, with 12,000 square feet of public space. The expansion houses two new exhibition halls that will offer visitors opportunities to engage directly with the Folger’s world-class collection, including its 82 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio which will be displayed together to the public for the first
time. Accessible garden entrances and visitor lobbies, a café, a new learning lab and collaborative research spaces, and an expanded gift shop are among the visitor amenities and building enhancements added during the four-year construction project.

Folger Shakespeare Library at night, January 2024, as it nears reopening on June 21, 2024, after a four-year building renovation and expansion. Photo by Lloyd Wolf.

“This renovation expresses our faith in the ongoing importance of Shakespeare, the arts, and the humanities to our civic life,” said Folger Director Michael Witmore. “Years in the making, these enhancements to our building and grounds guarantee that generations of DC residents and visitors will engage with our collections and programs in new and profound ways. As we look to the Folger’s next century in Washington, we continue to build community through programs that explore powerful stories as part of an inquiry into history and the human condition.”

Poet Rita Dove. Her new poem will welcome visitors to the Folger when it reopens June 21, 2024. Photo by Fred Viebahn.

As a part of the renovation, three artists were commissioned to create works that reflect the Folger’s mission and offer visitors creative entry points through which to consider Shakespeare and the early modern world. Included among these is a poem written by US Poet Laureate (1993-1995) and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove that is now inscribed upon the garden wall along the path that leads visitors down to the Folger’s new west entrance from East Capitol and 2nd St. SE. The poem beckons readers to “Clear your calendars. Pocket your notes.” And later, “step into a house where/the jumbled perfumes of our human potpourri/waft up from a single page.” The full text of the poem is now available to read on the Folger’s website.

“I have such a deep love for the Folger Shakespeare Library,” Dove said. “Just walking into the space, what it did to my sensibility and how it helped to refresh my soul. I wanted to recreate that feeling that I had every time I walked into the Folger, so that if someone were to be reading any portion of the poem as they walked in, it would help to guide them.”

The Folger’s new gardens were designed by landscape architecture firm OLIN, and the building renovation designed by the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of KieranTimberlake. Renowned interdisciplinary artist Fred Wilson’s recontextualization of Folger’s 1579 “Sieve” portrait of Queen Elizabeth I alongside an original work titled Heaven me such uses send, Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend! will greet visitors entering the Shakespeare Exhibition Hall, one of the two exhibition halls added during the renovation. The second, the Stuart and Mimi Rose Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibition Hall, will support all types of exhibitions and programming, from rotating highlights from the Folger collection to large-scale temporary exhibitions. A sculpture entitled Cloud of Imagination by German artist Anke Neumann was unveiled to theater patrons this past November when The Winter’s Tale opened in the historic theater at the Folger. At present, the theater is the only portion of the Folger open to the public.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, June 21 will commence the reopening weekend activities. Visitors will have the opportunity to reserve timed-entry passes on the website in advance of visiting the Folger. Passes ensure members of the general public are able to enjoy all the Folger’s new amenities at the time of their choosing, though walk-in visitors will also be welcome. Detailed information about the renovation project and planning a visit are available on Timed-entry passes will be available in May.

More details about the opening weekend as well as media previews to follow.

About Folger Shakespeare Library
The Folger Shakespeare Library makes Shakespeare’s stories and the world in which he lived accessible. Anchored by the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is a place where curiosity and creativity are embraced and conversation is always encouraged. Visitors to the Folger can choose how they want to experience the arts and humanities, from interactive exhibitions to captivating performances, and from pathbreaking research to transformative educational programming. The Folger welcomes everyone to connect in their own way—from communities throughout Washington DC to communities across the globe.

Folger Shakespeare Library sets 2023/24 season of theater, music, and poetry (news story, May 4, 2023)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here