Folger Shakespeare Library
An aerial rendering of Folger Shakespeare Library’s west entry; Credit: KieranTimberlake/OLIN

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Save the date: November 17, 2023, is not just yours truly’s birthday but the day the Folger Shakespeare Library plans to reopen its doors after nearly four years of renovations. 

The Capitol Hill landmark closed to the public in March of 2020, just before COVID caused everything else to close as well. But the $80.5 million renovation designed by the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of KieranTimberlake, which Folger says “represents an ongoing commitment to make the Folger even more widely inclusive and accessible to all people,” was a long time coming. According to the press release, a decade of planning went into the new design. The new, 12,000-square-foot public wing sits under the Folger’s original Paul Philippe Cret 1932 building, just one block from the U.S. Capitol.

Described as “transformative,” the updated site promises greater accessibility and will feature more than 12,000 square feet of new public spaces, including new exhibition halls, a learning lab, collaborative research spaces, expansive outdoor gardens, as well as a gift shop and new cafe. To achieve a better sense of belonging for visitors, the multiyear renovation includes feedback from a “diverse cross-section of DC community members and organizations,” notes the release.

“The renovation is more than buildings and spaces, it’s about creating true accessibility to the wonderful cultural resources and experiences that make the Folger a singular place to visit amongst the impressive group of DC cultural institutions,” Karen Ann Daniels, director of programming and artistic director of Folger Theatre, states in the release. 

One new feature sure to stand out for William Shakespeare fans is the Shakespeare Exhibition Hall, which will display all 82 of the Folger’s Shakespeare First Folios together for the very first time. This collection, which will shockingly be Folger’s first permanent Shakespeare exhibit, features more than a third of the copies remaining in the world. The folios will be displayed in a 20-foot-long visible vault, surrounded by interactive experiences to engage visitors of all ages.

The space has also commissioned new works from three contemporary artists: U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, renowned visual artist Fred Wilson, and innovative artist and sculptor Anke Neuman. In addition to visual and written art, theater productions, concerts, and readings—that have happened off campus for the past couple of years—will once again take place in the storied building. Announcements for the fall season are forthcoming. Until then, you can plan for an epic grand reopening celebration to take place Nov. 17 through 19.