Gallaudet to Host Shakespeare's First Folio Exhibition in October 2016

February 27, 2015

Gallaudet University has been selected as a host site for the nationwide traveling exhibition of Shakespeare's First Folio, one of the world's most treasured books. The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring the exhibition, entitled First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, throughout 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Gallaudet was selected as the host site for Washington, D.C. for the month of October 2016.

Receive news and information about the First Folio at Gallaudet by visiting the First Folio! at Gallaudet University webpage and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The theme for the exhibition at Gallaudet will be "visual Shakespeare." Various programs will offer visitors a unique cross-cultural experience featuring classic English literature, theater, American Sign Language (ASL), and the deaf community. Shakespeare's works have held an important role as a medium of artistic expression for deaf people since the 19th century. Gallaudet has a storied tradition of innovation in teaching and presenting Shakespeare's works to a bilingual and visually oriented community. Through "visual Shakespeare," Gallaudet faculty and students will collaborate with local theater groups Faction of Fools, Synetic Theater, and No Rules Theater to explore visual approaches to Shakespeare's works. 

"We are delighted to be selected as the D.C. host site for First Folio! Our goal is to promote a deeper understanding of Shakespeare's role in deaf theater history and to educate a broad swath of the U.S. deaf and hard of hearing community about the First Folio," said Dr. Jill Bradbury, project director and professor of English at Gallaudet. "We are grateful to the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the American Library Association for giving us this opportunity." 

According to Bradbury, other goals include:

  • Exploring the unique perspectives that deaf artists and scholars bring to the translation, adaptation, staging, and performance of Shakespeare's plays, and the challenges of undertaking productions that focus on visual presentation of the text.
  • Exploring and documenting innovative approaches to interpreting theatrical performances that will broaden the access of deaf/hard of hearing audiences to Shakespeare's plays and to theater more generally.  
  • Events during the exhibition at Gallaudet will include a lecture series, a day of programming for families, a visual Shakespeare festival, a workshop for K-12 educators, and an academic conference. The First Folio will be incorporated into the curriculum for various classes and the exhibition will offer students internship opportunities. 

"As the world's only liberal arts university for deaf and hard of hearing students, Gallaudet is uniquely positioned to host such an exhibit that celebrates the history of Shakespeare as well as the history of Shakespeare within the deaf and hard of hearing community," said Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz. "The exhibit will also share with the world the contributions of deaf artists to Shakespearean theater and visual approaches to Shakespeare's plays."

Many of Shakespeare's plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Two of Shakespeare's fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare's plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. All 18 appear for the first time in print in the First Folio, and would otherwise have been lost.

"The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare. Between its covers we discover his most famous characters-Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and hundreds of others-speaking words that continue to move and inspire us," said Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. "Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day. We are delighted that we can share this precious resource with people everywhere, from San Diego, California to Gurabo, Puerto Rico, from Eugene, Oregon to Duluth, Minnesota."

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world and more than a third of the 233 known copies in the world today. It is believed that 750 copies were originally printed. 

The Shakespeare First Folio is one of the most valuable printed books in the world; a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie's and another one for $5.2 million in 2006 in London. 

When the First Folio arrives in D.C., its pages will be opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world, "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities. During the exhibition, Gallaudet University is planning numerous programs for the public and families around the First Folio exhibition.  

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. Sponsorship opportunities of this major exhibition and the Folger's other Wonder of Will programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death are available; learn more at www.folger.edu.

About Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world's largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500-1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K-12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs-theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures and family programs. Learn more at www.folger.edu.   

About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. 
ALA's Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office's programming initiatives. Additional information can be found at www.ala.org/programming.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.