Shakespeare and his First Folio

Shakespeare and His First Folio: A Traveling Exhibition

RECEIPT DEADLINE: October 24, 2014

Date posted: June 6, 2014


Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

I. Program Description

The American Library Association Public Programs Office, in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC), invites applications for public, academic and special libraries, small museums, historical societies, and other cultural venues for the traveling exhibition Shakespeare and His First Folio. As part of the international events planned for 2016 in observance of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, the exhibition will be displayed at one site in all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The traveling exhibition and tour are funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Folger Shakespeare Library and may include support from corporate sponsors. Fifty-three sites will be selected to present the First Folio and its accompanying panel exhibition in their communities for a period of four weeks.

Exhibition venues will be selected based on a number of factors, including proposed outreach and programming ideas for the public. Key criteria for selecting host institutions are:

  • Creative and varied ideas for public programs;

  • Evidence of contact with supporting educators, scholars, local communities, and scholarly organizations;

  • A clear and targeted publicity plan to engage a large and diverse audience;

  • Ability to attract and engage constituencies that will sustain Folger presence and outreach in the area; and

  • A venue with appropriate security and environmental conditions to support a museum exhibition.

Each institution should plan and execute:

  • An opening event/program for the exhibition

  • At least two public programs of their own devising, which may include the required opening event/program;

  • At least one program for school teachers using materials provided by the Folger; and

  • At least one program for families using materials provided by the Folger.

Each site will be responsible for expenses related to required programming for the exhibition. To increase the local impact of the traveling exhibition at each stop on its tour, institutions may exhibit additional appropriate items from their own or nearby collections in order to examine the influence of Shakespeare within the community.

Each host institution must have a suitable space in which to display the case containing the 1623 original edition of Shakespeare's First Folio, along with the 500-square-foot space needed to display the accompanying panel exhibition. Total space required is approximately 550 square feet.

Prospective host institutions must provide evidence of:

  • Administrative support for the project and its accompanying programming requirements;

  • Sufficient available space; and

  • The ability to meet environmental and security requirements.

The host institution must also commit to a publicity campaign and outreach efforts to attract the widest possible audience for the exhibition and be willing to support sponsor activities at the sponsors' expense. A custom display case and book cradle will be provided for the First Folio. First Folio packing, unpacking, and placement on display will be done by professional art handlers and couriers provided by the project grant. Insurance for the First Folio will be covered by the grant; exhibit sites will be required to have professional guards present during Folio installation and de-installation and at all times the exhibition is open to visitors. Guidelines will be available for the arrangement of exhibition units in varied display spaces, and for exhibition panel set-up and dismantling. The exhibition must be free to the public. Prospective applicants must carefully read "Requirements for Host Sites" in these guidelines and be able to meet all requirements listed.

The objective of establishing these hosting standards and selection guidelines is to ensure that visitors of all ages in as many parts of the United States as possible get to experience a meaningful, safe, and memorable encounter with Shakespeare's work.

The exhibition

Shakespeare and His First Folio explores one of the most important books in the world, Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, which was published in 1623, and is commonly known as the First Folio. This book was a landmark publication in terms of the preservation and editing of Shakespeare's plays, as well as the larger history of book printing and ownership. Its supreme importance in English literature and language, and the varied histories of the surviving individual copies, make the story of this book irresistible.

Early in our nation's history, Shakespeare was read by millions of Americans who took from it their own sense of the beauty, power, and importance of words---much as they responded to the King James Bible. Unlike the Bible, however, the First Folio was the work of a secular writer whose legacy, as an artist and a thinker, was shaped by the printing of his works. The publication of the First Folio in 1623 made Shakespeare---as playwright, a person for the ages---a writer whose works were collected and shared for posterity. As the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, the First Folio largely established Shakespeare's canon and saved for posterity eighteen plays that had not previously appeared in print, among them The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It.

The other eighteen plays contained in the First Folio had been published in Shakespeare's lifetime, in individual volumes known as quartos, the paperbacks of their day. These previously published plays had been recorded and printed in varying degrees of accuracy, some of them containing text we would not, today, recognize as Shakespeare's. The exhibition will present Hamlet as an example of this fact: the familiar "To be or not to be, that is the question" was, in the first quarto of the play (1603), published as "To be or not to be; aye, there's the point." The revival of Shakespeare's work in the eighteenth century excited fervor for the author and his plays, which led, in turn, to a desire to own a copy of the original edition---the 1623 First Folio. Among the most fervent of collectors in the early twentieth century were Henry and Emily Folger. Together, they amassed the largest collection of First Folios in the United States and the world---a collection of eighty-two copies that now resides at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Eighteen copies of this original 1623 edition will tour the nation as the exhibition Shakespeare and His First Folio. They will be accompanied by six interpretive panels, providing hundreds of thousands of visitors with a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view this important book in their own community. For many visitors, this will be their first and perhaps only opportunity to see this rare and influential book in person; for some it may be their introduction to the power of Shakespeare's words.

Shakespeare's appeal is universal. He is the most produced playwright in American theater today, according to American Theatre magazine. His plays are the cornerstone of summer festivals and outdoor performances. Movie adaptations of his plays are major attractions at the box office. Shakespeare reading groups meet regularly at public libraries, and Shakespeare societies and clubs exist in communities large and small, from North Dakota to California and beyond. Chicago dedicates a day each April to "Talking Like Shakespeare." If you're speaking English, chances are you're using words and phrases coined by him a couple of times a day. And in school? A 2010 British Council survey showed that roughly half of the world's children---at least 64 million each year---are studying Shakespeare in school. In the United States, Shakespeare is taught in 93% of high schools, making him the most commonly taught author in America.

As familiar as Shakespeare is to Americans, he still provides the aha! moment for audiences of all ages. Some visitors will not know what the Shakespeare First Folio is, while others will be Shakespeare aficionados. Even audiences familiar with Shakespeare will have something to learn: they may recognize Hamlet's most famous speech, but may not be aware of the changes the text went through to become the words we hear on stage or memorize in the classroom. Additionally the First Folio itself is an iconic object, and one most people do not encounter in their lifetime. The goal of the exhibition is to bring this rich cultural artifact from a vault in the nation's capital to communities across the country, and to bring communities to the Folio by providing context and programming designed to engage all audiences.

The 500-square-foot traveling exhibition accompanying the First Folio tells a two-part story. The first is about the First Folio as an object: its history, cultural significance, and continued relevance. The second is about Shakespeare's plays: a widely read set of texts, beloved for their timeless themes of our shared humanity. The displayed First Folio will be opened to the "to be or not to be" soliloquy from Shakespeare's Hamlet ---among the most famous and most quoted words ever written.

The accompanying exhibition will consist of six single-sided interpretive panels with content and images, including funder and sponsor information, provided by Folger exhibition curators on the following topics:

1. What Is Shakespeare's First Folio? This panel explains what the First Folio is and helps to situate the book in its historic context, providing audiences with the tools to appreciate the book as an artifact. It also contextualizes the importance of this particular book, and offers a first look at the iconic cultural status the First Folio holds.

2. How Was the First Folio Printed? Visitors will come away with a basic understanding of book formats (history of the book), and an overview of how books were printed in the early seventeenth century. They will better understand the importance of being able to compare multiple copies of works produced on hand-presses, which created a certain fluidity in the printed text (mutable text).

3. What Makes the First Folio so Important? This panel explains the importance of the First Folio as an object with iconic cultural status. The First Folio remains so valued because it preserves half of Shakespeare's canon, as well as one of his only authentic likenesses. We would not know Shakespeare as the most famous author in the English language if not for this book.

4. "To be or not to be": What Does It Mean? Visitors will learn the purpose of a soliloquy in a work of drama, and gain an understanding of the plot of Hamlet as well as the meaning of the "to be or not to be" speech.

5. How Many Hamlets Are There? How do we know the Hamlet that we know? The First Folio is important to us in part because it is considered the authoritative text for half of Shakespeare's plays, but its relationship with earlier versions of some of the plays---including Hamlet---may never be fully known.

6. How America Knows Hamlet. Visitors will gain an understanding of the use of Hamlet in the American classroom, and learn about famous examples of and references to the speech in American literature and history.

II. Award Information and Requirements

The exhibition tour will launch in February 2015 and continue through the calendar year. The fifty-three host sites will be chosen based upon criteria developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the American Library Association, and the Cincinnati Museum Center. A primary qualification is the array of programming host sites will offer to visitors.

Exhibition Physical Details: The exhibition consists of a display case which will contain the First Folio, and six freestanding graphic panels, each with an approximate 7-foot height and 3-foot width (subject to change; display will be no larger than described here). The entire exhibition requires approximately 550 square feet of space for optimal display.

Public programs

To extend and deepen the impact of the connection to the First Folio for members of their community, exhibition sites are required to present two or more public programs for adult audiences on the themes emphasized in the exhibit as well as at least one program for school teachers and at least one program targeted toward families. The Folger's Public Engagement Coordinator may offer support and consultation as well as sample programming, but applications will be evaluated based on the originality, feasibility, and projected impact of the prospective host venue's proposed program ideas. Host venue programs should:

  • Encourage scholar-led reflection upon and discussion about the exhibition;

  • Acquaint new audiences with the history of the First Folio, its cultural significance, and its continued relevance; and

  • Make use of materials in different formats which have been developed to support the content of the exhibition.

Programming might cover a range of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Shakespeare in film;

  • The role of oral history and storytelling in theater;

  • Scholarly approaches to the study of Shakespeare's work, in a variety of disciplines;

  • Book clubs; and

  • Performances and accompanying actor panels, talk backs, or discussions.

The objective of programming is to engage new audiences with Shakespeare's works while maximizing the impact of this national initiative to bring The Bard's original texts to demographics that otherwise might never experience them.

Benefits for project sites

Sites selected for this grant program will receive the following:

  1. An insured loan from Folger Shakespeare Library of the original 1623 Shakespeare First Folio for a four-week loan period (shipping costs are covered by the grant).

  2. The traveling exhibition panels for the same four-week loan period (shipping costs are covered by the grant).

  3. A custom display case and book cradle provided for the First Folio, and handling of the First Folio by professional art handlers and couriers provided by the grant.

  4. Exhibition brochures and information available online.

  5. A press kit with images for use in publicity and on websites.

  6. An online site support notebook which will offer resources to assist sites in presenting public programs, shipping and installation instructions, and report forms.

  7. Free participation in a live orientation webinar for the project in October 2015. The webinar will be archived for later viewing.

  8. Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the project, including participation in an online discussion group for host sites, and tour management and support from CMC.

Requirements for host sites

Host Site Facility Requirements: All sites chosen for the exhibition are required to provide the following:

NOTE: All applicants must complete and attach to their application the document "Application Form for Loans of Folger Shakespeare Library Materials to Outside Exhibitions." Please use these links to access the form: PDF | MS Word

  1. Public Programs Requirements

    1. Host must collaborate with local partners on planning, executing, and marketing excellent public programs, and in marketing the exhibition itself to all parts of the community/state. Collaborative partners must include:

      • Two or more qualified scholars (as demonstrated by accompanying resumes detailing their qualifications).

Other potential partners might include at least two of the following:

        • A theater company;

        • A representative of a nearby branch of the English Speaking Union;

        • A representative from the state humanities council;

        • A representative from a National Council of Teachers of English state affiliate;

        • Local public television and/or radio stations; and

        • Local/statewide newspapers or online services.

The national offices of the Shakespeare Theater Association ( and English Speaking Union of the United States ( stand ready to direct you to their local members. The National Council of Teachers of English ( has pledged to assemble a small committee of English teachers in each state to serve as education advisors and marketers.

    1. Host must produce at least four public programs during the course of the exhibition including the following:

      • An opening event/program for the exhibition

      • Two public programs for general adult audiences, presented by qualified humanities scholars, on the humanities themes of the exhibition. One of these may be an opening event/program for the exhibition.

      • A third public program must be an education program for school teachers using materials provided by the Folger

      • A fourth public program must be for families (parents and children) using materials provided by the Folger.

1.3. All exhibition-related programs must be free to the public.

These represent the minimum requirements, and hosts are encouraged to exceed them. The Folger's Public Engagement Coordinator will offer some site support for these programs, including consultation, materials development, and onsite program implementation.

  1. Facility Requirements

    1. Climate Requirements:

      • Upon arrival, the First Folio must be acclimatized for a period of 24 hours in a secure location with same temperature and relative humidity as the exhibition gallery.

      • Display case environment must be monitored and maintained within following temperature and humidity ranges: 65-72° F / 45-52% RH (relative humidity)

      • If temperature or humidity range departs for that listed above for more than 2 days, the Folger must be notified and the First Folio may need to be removed at the expense of the borrowing institution.

    1. Lighting Requirements:

      • Exhibition space must be adequately filtered from UV light and able to be maintained at a maximum of 70 lumens and a maximum of 50 lux (4-5 foot-candles). If necessary, please consult local lighting specialists to determine your lighting conditions.

    1. Display Requirements:

      • A custom case will be provided for the First Folio (**Applicants in HI, AK, VI, and PR may be required to provide a suitable museum case. Contact the ALA Public Programs Office for more information**)

      • A custom book cradle will be provided for the First Folio.

    1. Security Requirements:

      • Packing and unpacking of First Folio must be done by Folger staff or by professional art handlers approved by the Folger and CMC.

      • A courier approved by the Folger and CMC must accompany the loan and oversee installation.

      • Host site must provide secure, approved transportation for courier and First Folio from airport to host institution.

      • Exhibition space must have systems for fire/heat/smoke detection and fire suppression.

      • Professional security staff must be present during exhibition installation and de-installation, and when the exhibition is open to visitors.

      • Appropriate safeguards (e.g. alarms, cameras) must be continually active when exhibition is closed to visitors.

      • Material must not be cleaned, modified, or otherwise handled without express permission from the Folger.

      • Display cases must not be opened or altered outside the presence of a representative of the Folger or CMC.

    1. Documentation Requirements:

      • Condition report(s) will be created by a representative of the Folger before packing. Material will be re-examined and condition report updated by a representative of the Folger or CMC upon unpacking at borrowing institution, at de-installation, and finally after unpacking upon return to the Folger.

      • Applicants must supply reports showing temperature and relative humidity in the exhibition area for the 12-month period preceding the application. Additional reports may be requested at any point during the loan.

      • Applicants must include floorplan and color photography of gallery space with the application, including area in which Folger material would be displayed.

      • Applicants must provide an operational and crisis management plan which includes a detailed plan for what steps the borrower would take in the event of an emergency.

  1. Other general Requirements:

    1. Host must appoint one qualified staff member as the project director (local coordinator) of the project. The appointed project director will serve as point for coordination and communication relative to all logistics, planning, security, marketing and outreach, and programming for the duration of the Folio's period at the host site. The individual will be expected to have decision-making authority, and to lead communications with the Folger and with CMC, and also must participate in the orientation webinar in October 2015.

    2. Host must agree to work with the Folger and major sponsors to accommodate Folger and sponsor messaging, activities, special events, or promotional activities that also meet host's facility and promotional requirements. These activities will be paid for by sponsors and may involve data and promotional materials collection.

    3. Host agrees not to solicit corporate sponsors that compete with tour sponsors.

    4. Host must use designated sponsor and funder credits and/or logos on all locally produced publicity materials.

    5. Host must promote the programs to the widest possible public audience. Private institutions should describe in their applications how they plan to attract public audiences to the exhibition and programs.

    6. Host must demonstrate their ability to follow exhibition security and space guidelines, and provide appropriate documentation demonstrating their ability to meet the required specifications.

    7. Host must provide all reports to ALA and CMC by the deadlines requested, including an exhibition condition/damage report and a final project report that assesses how well the finished project met its goals to educate and engage the public, in accordance with NEH requirements. Forms will be available for these reports. Information on the project's reach (size of audiences viewing the exhibit and attending programs) and impact must be part of this final report. NEH particularly wants to know how fully the project met its stated learning goals and how audiences were more deeply engaged in thinking about humanities ideas and questions as a result of the project.

III. Eligibility

Eligible institutions include public, academic, and special libraries; museums; historical societies; and other qualified cultural centers and venues. Individuals are not eligible to apply.

Federal entities are ineligible to apply. Applications from organizations whose projects are so closely intertwined with a federal entity that the project takes on characteristics of the federal entity's own authorized activities may also be deemed ineligible. This does not preclude applicants from using grant funds from, or sites and materials controlled by, other federal entities in their projects.

Please contact the sponsors if you have questions about eligibility.

Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

IV. Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for the exhibition between June 6 and October 24, 2014.

Getting started

To begin the application process, go to

To apply to for Shakespeare and His First Folio, you must complete the following nine steps:

  1. REGISTER (if you have not registered when applying for a different project)

  2. LOG IN (if you have already registered when applying for a different project)









Before you access the application, you must register to create an application account.



  • LOG IN
    If you have already registered when applying for another ALA Public Programs Office grant project, you may log in, using your e-mail address and password.


Note: The Project Director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the traveling exhibition at the site. He or she will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution, and must have decision-making authority. The application requires a dossier or CV from the Project Director demonstrating experience with project management, ability to coordinate facility needs at the host site, ability to coordinate security at the host site as well as channels to access local law enforcement, and ability to coordinate with local or statewide groups for public outreach and marketing. Please attach the Project Director CV in section 6A.

To complete step 3, provide all the information that is requested on the Project Director Information screen. You must then save the information.

One piece of information that you must supply is the applicant institution's DUNS number. All institutions receiving an award are required to provide a DUNS number, issued by Dun & Bradstreet. Project directors should contact their institution's grants administrator or chief financial officer to obtain their institution's DUNS number. Federal grant or subgrant applicants can obtain a DUNS number free of charge by calling 1-866-705-5711. (Learn more about the requirement.)

After clicking the "SAVE" button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in, using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the submission deadline.


Fill in the information requested in the drop down menus in this section of the application form. Please indicate preferred display periods and unwanted display periods for the traveling exhibition. You may indicate "No Preference."


Before you compose the narrative part of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.


Please write a brief narrative describing your resources and plans for presenting this exhibition. The proposal narrative consists of seven sections (described immediately below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 300 words.

Be sure to address the following points in your narrative:

  1. Describe why your institution would like to participate in this project, including community interests and demographics, area collections pertinent to the project, and why the cultural life of your community would benefit from examining the exhibition's themes and events. Please state three primary learning goals for your community for this project.

2. Exhibition sites are requested to collaborate with at least two of the following in planning their programs: a local public television station; a public, college, or university library; a historical society or history center; a museum; a theatrical group; or a state humanities council. Please describe your partners and their roles in the project. Letter of support from partners may be attached in Section 6.B.

3. Provide the name and title of at least two scholars who will help you with local programming for the exhibition. Scholars should have specialties in literature, history, or the works of Shakespeare. Describe their experience with the topics of the exhibit and with programming for public audiences. Attach a vita or biography (up to two pages only) for each scholar in Section 6.A. Scholar support letters for the project may be attached in Section 6.B.

4. Describe your target audiences and how you will reach them. What is your track record in attracting the general public to programs? How will you reach a large, statewide audience for programs associated with this exhibition? All applicants please attach samples of previous or current program publicity materials, if available, in Section 6.D.

5. What are your ideas for the opening event and required public programs? For other programs? Please provide as many details as you can about the required and other programs you will present. Summarize your institution's past programming successes, including attendance figures and target audiences reached. Please attach letters from other project supporters in Section 6.C. if you wish.

6. Describe the methods that will be used to evaluate how well your programs met their learning goals and objectives. NEH particularly wants to know how fully the project met its stated learning goals; how audiences were more deeply engaged in thinking about humanities ideas and questions; and both numbers and demographics of audiences reached as a result of the project. A brief audience evaluation form will be available from the NEH for all sites.

7. Discuss how your institution can fulfill all the programming and facility requirements for this exhibition. Attach "Application Form for Loans of Folger Shakespeare Library Materials to Outside Exhibitions," required climate records, floorplans, photographs of the exhibition space, and an institutional crisis management plan in Section 6E.


6.A – UPLOAD CVs/BIOGRAPHIES (project director and scholar CVs required)

Upload the vita or biography of the project director and local scholars, as described in the instructions in the "Project Director Information" section, and in Question No. 3 of the proposal narrative. Documents should be up to two pages only.


Upload only letters of support from project partners and project scholars here, as described in the instructions for Nos. 2 and 3 of the proposal narrative.


Upload other letters of support for the project from local individuals, organizations and institutions (not the project partners or scholars) here.



Upload the completed "Application Form for Loans of Folger Shakespeare Library Materials to Outside Exhibitions" along with other required supporting material (climate records for the past 12 months, floorplans, photographs of gallery space, institutional crisis management plan).


An application to host this exhibition is an application for an award from the ALA, using funding provided by the NEH, an agency of the federal government. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official, who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.


The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered, including your Project Director Information and your Proposal Narrative. From this page you can

  • review and edit each section,

  • save the entire application and log out of the system, or

  • move ahead to certify and submit your application.


Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it at any time by selecting the "Submit Application" button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on October 24, 2014. Applications submitted after that time will be considered ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review.

You will receive via e-mail a confirmation of the submission of your application. At the confirmation page you will be able to print out a copy of your application, which you should keep.

V. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including the seven sections of the proposal narrative and the preferred display dates for the exhibition? Are plans and ideas for programs described clearly?

  • Evidence of local programming and publicity support. Does the applicant have a clear plan for collaborations with scholars, educators, local communities, and other institutions? Is publicity plan clear, achievable, and targeted to a diverse audience?

  • Ideas and vision for exhibition programs. How does this project relate to the applicant's community and its previous public programs? How will it contribute to the community's cultural life?

  • Quality and comprehensiveness of publicity. Has the application supplied a clear publicity and audience recruitment plan, and will programs and marketing engage constituencies that will sustain Folger presence and outreach in the community?

  • Institutional administrative support for the project. Is the Project Director qualified to make decisions and have oversight of the project? Is there a clear response plan in place in the event of an emergency?

  • Institutional requirements for display of rare materials on loan. Does the site meet the environmental and security requirements to host and exhibit rare materials? Does the site have a record of this type of display and the resources to respond appropriately in case of emergency?

Other factors that may influence the final selection of exhibition sites include the following:

  • Location of the sites. The program will be hosted at single locations in all fifty states, D.C., and two U.S. territories.

  • Size and demographics of the community. The selection committee seeks a mix of communities of different sizes and varied demographics.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the Public Programs Office, American Library Association, at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Review and selection process

Each application will be assessed by qualified reviewers in collaboration with the staff of ALA, CMC, Folger Shakespeare Library, and NEH.

Evaluators may take geographical and demographic distribution into consideration when selecting host libraries. The Chairman of NEH will make the final decisions.

VI. Award Administration Information

  • Application Deadline: October 24, 2014

  • Grant Notification: Mid-February, 2015

  • Orientation Webinar October 2015

  • Exhibition Tour Period: February through December 2016

Award notification

Applicants will be notified of the decision by e-mail by mid-February, 2015.

Reporting requirements

Award recipients will be required to submit an online final performance report to ALA thirty (30) days after the exhibition and programs end at their site.

VII. Points of Contact

If you have questions about the program, contact:

Public Programs Office

American Library Association

1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045

To access the application system, sign in with your profile.