0 5 min 4 weeks

The Folger Shakespeare Library today 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.


“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.”

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 folger.edu 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 folger.edu. Timed-entry passes will be available in May.

About The Author