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First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare

Fans of the Bard of Avon today's the day that the national traveling exhibition First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare opens at the New Mexico Museum of Art running through February 28, 2016.

It has been 400 years since Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon, England, on April 23, 1616. Honoring this milestone, the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has created this traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, the 17th century first edition of the volume that introduced his work to the world.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is the only venue in the state to view the First Folio. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New Mexicans and other museum visitors to see an original 1623 First Folio—one of the world's most influential and valuable books, and the original printed source for 18 of Shakespeare's 38 plays. Had it not been for two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who seven years after the Bard’s death in 1616 published the first collected edition of his works, known as the First Folio, plays like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, and As You Like It might have been lost forever. The Folger, which owns 82 of the world's 233 copies, is sending this rare book on a year-long tour of the United States, in association with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center.

The First Folio is roughly 900 pages long; each page is about a foot tall. When the First Folio arrives in Santa Fe, 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.

“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.”

The New Mexico Museum of Art has created a comprehensive First Folio web site which includes a calendar of exhibition-related programs and events.

Complementing the display of the Folio, the museum will present two companion exhibitions Stage, Setting, Mood: Theatricality in the Visual Arts, and Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar opening the same evening as First Folio! (February 5 and running through May 1, 2016).  Together, these three exhibitions look at the importance of the stage whether in life or imagination.

Museum of Art director Mary Kershaw commented on the impact that viewing the Folio will have on visitors, “We are pleased to be able to share this treasure with all the people of New Mexico. For most people to come within inches of one of the most influential books in history will foster a new, lasting appreciation of Shakespeare through personal engagement and from programming that aims to foster an appreciation of the Folio as an original, primary source.”

Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said, "We still pay attention to Shakespeare because, no matter how networked our world becomes, he remains one of the ultimate connectors. In a sense, Shakespeare wrote the preamble to modern life. His stories reflect the tensions of the period in which he lived—a period that saw the rise of global trade, modern science, free speech, religious tolerance, even the media revolution that was the printed book. Shakespeare found the human heart in all of this change. Long before anyone knew what to call it, this clever man from Warwickshire was writing about the modern world. That world is still our world, and we're inviting everyone to encounter it anew this year as we celebrate The Wonder of Will around the country."

In all, the Folger exhibition will travel to 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies and a theater. Check out the scheduled First Folio display dates in each state here.

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.  More information at www.wonderofwill.folger.edu.

First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, is a national travelling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 400th anniversary in 2016 of Shakespeare’s death. It is produced in association with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center. First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, 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. The New Mexico Humanities Council is supporting programs at the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Palace Press programs and exhibitions.

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Founded in 1917 as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Art has been presenting innovative arts programming in downtown Santa Fe for close to 100 years.  At its founding the museum collected and exhibited artworks by noted artists from New Mexico and elsewhere. This tradition continues today with a wide array of exhibitions and a significant collection featuring work from the world's leading artists. Today, as at its founding, the New Mexico Museum of Art strives to bring the art of New Mexico to the world and the art of the world to New Mexico.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, New Mexico's cultural steward charged with preserving and showcasing the state's cultural riches. Museum exhibitions and programs are supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director's Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education.

The Museum is located at 107 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico, just off the downtown Plaza. 24 Hr. Recorded Message: 505-476-5072; Front desk: 505-476-5041. November through April the museum is open Tuesdays - Sundays: 10 am-5 pm and open for free 5 to 8 pm on the first Friday of the month. May through October the museum is open 7 days a week 10 am-5 pm and is open for free every Friday night from 5 to 8 pm. The Museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Weather conditions may require the Museum to close; you can check with the Front Desk at 505-476-5041. Visit us on the web for the latest updates at www.nmartmuseum.org.

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