Shakespeare’s First Folio to be exhibited in Missoula

Coming in 2016 - Montana Museum of Art and Culture, Main Hall, University of Montana, Missoula

Art Beat

The University of Montana has been selected as Montana’s host site for “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” a national traveling exhibition of one of the world’s most treasured books – the Shakespeare First Folio.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring the exhibition to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in 2016. Final touring dates will be announced in April.

“Each state will host a copy of the folio, and I am proud that we get to represent Montana,” Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Associate Professor Julie Biando Edwards said. “We have a wonderful campus and community partnerships. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Montana, and I am so pleased to be a part of it.”

The Mansfield Library and Montana Museum of Art & Culture submitted the application to bring the First Folio to campus, and will partner to make it a valuable experience for the community. While the library will lead organizing and implementing numerous programs for University students, adults, children, teachers and families, the MMAC will display the folio and other related panels in their galleries, support the environmental and security requirements and provide public access free of charge. The museum also wi
ll curate a related exhibit, extending its hours to accommodate as many visitors as possible.

“Exhibiting the Shakespeare First Folio is a high honor,” MMAC Director Barbara Koostra said. “MMAC is delighted to ShakespeareTwoPagepartner with the Mansfield Library to bring this rare object to the University of Montana campus and the region, and we hope it inspires everyone.”

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.”

When the First Folio arrives in Missoula, its pages will be opened to Shakespeare’s most quoted line: “To be or not to be.” Those words were written in “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.

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. It is believed that 750 copies originally were printed.

The Folger Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture and the arts. It is a primary repository for rare materials from the years 1500-1750. The library 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 – theater, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures and family programs. Learn more at

“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 Vinton and Sigrid Cerf and 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. Visit for more information.

Partners in the Missoula community include Montana Public Radio, Missoula Children’s Theater, Children’s Museum Missoula, Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts, Missoula Writing Collaborative and Humanities Montana.