Tag Archives: Folger Shakespeare Library

Get Thee to the Folger Shakespeare Library

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 😉



You don’t have to be a huge Shakespeare enthusiast to enjoy the Folger Shakespeare Library, but if you are a fan of The Bard, you will love it. The attraction on Capitol Hill contains the world’s largest collection of materials relating to the poet and playwright. It also houses the Folger Theatre, which presents a variety of performances and events, from plays (Shakespeare and others) to concerts to talks to fun for families.

It’s not too far from where we live, and it’s free and open to the public, so we occasionally pop in to wander around the beautiful Great Hall, which is filled with exhibits all about, you guessed it, William Shakespeare. While most of the art, books, and other displays are probably most appealing to adult visitors more familiar with Shakespeare, every now and then there has been something for younger guests to enjoy, like a fun hands-on activity to accompany an exhibit.

When we were there a few weeks ago, however, Owen and Sasha were excited to see even more features for kids. There’s a book rack with reads for all ages. A replica of a Shakespeare bust welcomes photos ops, and there’s even a frame to snap fun portraits.

A Prop Drop is filled with clothes and accessories and encourages kids to “Make a scene!” There are cloaks and crowns, swords and shields, and other pieces that they can use to “create your own version of what you read and see.” (Sasha loved it, but tweenage Owen was too cool for school to dress up.)

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Booklets with art prompts are scattered about on benches, and we all spent time creating pictures with inspiration from something in the Hall. Afterwards, we hung them up with other drawings on display.

Free docent-led, walk-in tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm, and on Sundays at 12pm and 3pm (no reservation required). There are also reading rooms to tour, but advanced reservations are required. They are free and available on Saturdays 12-1pm and Sundays 1–2pm.



Family Activities
* On the first Saturday of every month, the Folger offers Shake Up Your Saturdays, workshops especially for kids and families to experience Shakespeare’s language together. They can learn about the plays, how to be a Shakespearean actor, on-stage combat techniques, and more. The 10am class is for ages 5-7, and an 11am class for ages 8-14. (The next one, Printers School, where students learn the art of book printing, is this Saturday, March 3 – register here.)

* Every April, the Folger celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday with a day full of festivities that is free and open to the public. It’s a beloved annual tradition that includes performances, sword fighting demos, sonnet readings, an appearance by Queen Elizabeth I, and birthday cake! This year it will take place on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

* Some of the Folger Theatre productions can be enjoyed by older children, so consider a show for a family outing. (Next up is The Winter’s Tale running March 13 – April 22, 2018). Of course, keep it in mind for KidFree time, too.

Be sure to explore outside on your visit. There is a small Elizabethan garden on the side of the building along 3rd Street SE with sculptures, hedges, an herb garden. It’s a lovely place to sit and let the kids toddle around on a nice day (I used to that often when mine were smaller).


The Folger Shakespeare Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street SE. It’s open Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm, and Sunday 12-5pm. Admission is free. (KFDC Tip: Just one block away from the Library of Congress and U.S. Capitol, you can plan to visit a couple of places in one outing.)

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Filed under All ages, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Live Entertainment, Museums, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend

Uncover 500 Years of Cryptography at the Folger Library

Writing a text using flowers at the Folger's "Decoding the Renaissance" exhibit

Writing a text using flowers at the Folger’s “Decoding the Renaissance” exhibit


[This is a guest post contributed my friend, Robert Pohl, author of Wicked Capitol Hill and Urban Legends & Historic Lore of Washington D.C. as well as a columnist for The Hill is Home blog and Hill Rag.]


If you think that cryptography, Shakespeare, and kids do not make a good combination, the Folger Shakespeare Library has an exhibition for you. By the time you — and your kids — have worked your way through it, you’ll be singing an entirely new tune.

Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Cyphers” has something for everyone. Centered around the work of Capitol Hill residents William and Elizebeth Friedman, it tells a remarkable story stretching from the 15th century to the present. The story begins before the First World War, when the two worked at a research institute outside of Chicago. While William was a geneticist, he found himself drawn not just to Elizebeth, but the work that she did. They soon joined forces as cryptographers, attempting to prove the proposition that Francis Bacon had not only written Shakespeare’s plays, but used a code to hide the information that he had done so in the first folios.

While doing this work, the Friedmans also became the acknowledged experts in codes in the US, and were asked to help the war effort. Thus, after Armistice, they moved to Washington, where they worked in various parts of the government to ensure that the codes being used were strong enough to withstand any cracking. This work became of national importance during the Second World War, with William not only creating a code that has apparently never been broken, but cracking a Japanese code considered unbreakable.

The Friedmans never lost their interest in Shakespeare and other arcane codes, and spent considerable amounts of time on the problem that had initially brought them together. As they approached retirement, they returned to that question, eventually writing the definitive book on the subject. (Short answer: No, Shakespeare’s plays were not written by Bacon, nor is there any code hidden in the first folios)

With this sorted out, they turned to an even more intractable question: That of the Voynich manuscript. This remarkable text was rediscovered in 1912 by a book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich. It contains over 250 pages of text in an unknown script, along with an amazing variety of pictures. What is encoded in the texts has never been determined, in spite of several multi-year attempts by the Friedmans and continues to puzzle the top cryptographers until today.

All of this — including the Voynich manuscript, on loan from Yale’s Beinecke Library — is on display at the Folger, as well as a number of activities for kids: A scavenger hunt for them (with a prize from the Spy Museum as reward) and the opportunity to, literally, say it with flowers. There are also two programs just for kids on January 3 and February 7, “Become a Spy Master” and “Create a Code.” Both will be from 10-11am, and are for ages 6 to 12. Like the exhibit, they are free, but do require registration.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill at 201 East Capitol Street. “Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Cyphers” will be on exhibit through February 26. Library hours are 10am – 5pm monday through Saturday, and 12-5pm on Sunday. Admission is free.


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Celebrate this Weekend

There is a lot of celebrating happening this weekend.  Many area farms and organizations are kicking off Easter festivities with egg hunts and more spring fun.  An Emancipation Day commemoration is taking place with a big event downtown.  National Parks are kicking off a special week.  William Shakespeare is turning 395 years old.  The earth will also be an honoree.  Even coral reefs have a family festival dedicated to them.

And you’re invited to be part of it all.  Here are details on all of the above-mentioned, plus a few more recommendations for family fun.  Happy Weekend!

Its a scramble for Easter eggs at a local Eggstravaganza last year

Thank You Easter Bunny – Local festivals celebrating the spring holiday have begun, and several will be on this weekend.  Already underway through April 24 is Ticonderoga Farms’ annual festival. Saturday marks the start of Bunnyland at Butler’s Orchard, and the National Community Church is launching their seasonal Eggstravanganzas on Saturday  at Top Golf in Alexandria from 10:30am -1pm and Grace Church in Georgetown (1041 Wisconsin Avenue NW) from 9:30-11am.  See the website for more details.  For something with a little extra sparkle, the annual Adeler Jewelers Children’s Spring Festival and Egg Hunt is on Sunday in Great Falls.  For more area Easter celebrations, Go Out & Play has a lengthy list of local egg hunts.

Park ItNational Park Week begins on Saturday and runs through April 24.  To celebrate, entrance to over 100 parks that usually charge admission will be free.  Log some time on the trails at a local park or even one a bit further away. For suggestions on good hikes with kids, see this post about hiking with little ones.

Get OutFor more outdoor pursuits, see my new list of the area’s best places to spend a beautiful day outdoors.  As this weekend round-up goes up, the weather forecast for the weekend isn’t looking fabulous, but there’s always a chance that will change.  Fingers crossed.

DC I AM: An Emanicpation Day CelebrationCommemorate the signing of the DC Compensated Emancipation Act 149 years ago with National Geographic.  The museum is hosting a special event on Saturday from 10am – 4pm that will include readings, performances, art and writing activities, family workshops, opportunities to tour the American I Am exhibit, and more.  Admission to the event is free.

Explore the Universe On Saturday, the National Air & Space Museum invites guests of all ages to a special Family Day that explores the skies and beyond.  Observe the sky through a telescope, experience how different cultures see the sky, hear stories about astronomy, and participate in hands-on astro-activities.  The free event runs from 10am – 3pm.

Coral Reef Family FestivalCelebrate the National Museum of Natural History’s exhibition of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef on Saturday from 11am – 3pm.  There will be Discover Stations in the Sant Ocean Hall, a chance to learn about different corals with scientist Stephen Cairns, and other special activities throughout the day.

Nature’s Best PhotographyTake the kids to see some amazing moments in nature captured in pictures.  A new exhibit is opening at the National Museum of Natural History on Saturday that features the winning photos from the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards. The images of wildlife, the plant world, sea creatures, and more will be fascinating and fun for the whole family.  Admission to both the exhibit and museum are free.

On the Really Big Screen – If you’re planning on a visit to the museums (or even if not), how about catching an IMAX as well?  Most are less than an hour long and can easily be combined with a trip to see the exhibits or one of the special festivals happening at the Natural History and Air & Space Museums, which just happened to be where both Smithsonian IMAX theaters are located.  Read reviews of a few films currently playing:  Born to Be Wild 3D, Arabia 3D, and Grand Canyon Adventure 3D.  All tickets are $9.

Happy Birthday to the BardCelebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Sunday from 12 – 4pm. Enjoy jugglers and jesters, music, song and dance, stage combat workshops, and more. It’s the one day of the year when the Folger reading rooms are open to all.  Plus, there will be birthday cake for everyone!  Admission is free, but there will be a charge for some food and drink.

Jammin’ Musical ExperiencesTwo kids’ music performers will be at Jammin’ Java this weekend entertaining with their unique shows and super fun sounds.  The Diggity Dudes will take the stage in Vienna on Saturday at 10:30am, and Gustafer Yellowgold will take the audience on a musical journey on Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets for both shows are $10 and available for purchase online.

Celebrate the EarthJoin Brookside Gardens on Sunday for a daylong Earth Day celebration. Festivities will kick off at 9am with an Earth Day Garden Project – volunteers are welcome to help Brookside get ready for the gardening season. Enjoy nature, wildlife, and plant walks starting at 10am. Participate in interactive family-friendly activities throughout the afternoon and visit the “green” vendor and craft fair.

Show TimeSeveral productions are happening in local theatres this weekend.  Find out what you can see where in this post about spring shows.

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Weekend Picks

The options for family fun this weekend span the activity spectrum. Here’s a round-up of what’s going on, from Earth Day and the bard’s birthday to dancing with a giant mouse and catching small fish.

Earth Day
If I had to pick a headlining event for the weekend, it would easily be Earth Day. The 40th anniversary of the planet’s big day is being celebrated with several events in the area, The Climate Rally at the National Mall on Sunday being the main one. On Saturday morning, the National Zoo welcomes volunteers to help clean up the grounds. Later on, the city of Alexandria is throwing its own Earth Day celebration at Ben Brenman Park. I posted about all of these events earlier this week—check it out for times and details.

Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House

If Shakespeare were alive he’d be pretty darn old. The Folger Shakespeare Library is celebrating the bard’s 446th birthday with an Open House on Sunday afternoon. In true Renaissance fashion, there will be song and dance, jesters and jugglers, and stage combat (workshops, methinks). Especially for children will be fortune telling, quill writing, arts & crafts, and a giant birthday cake. The event is free and will take place rain or shine. The Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street SE.

Angelina Ballerina Open House
The American Dance Institue is celebrating National Dance Week with an Open House themed around the storybook mouse heroine, Angelina Ballerina. Young dancers are invited to an afternoon of dance performances, crafts, a ballet “petting zoo,” and a chance to meet Angelina Ballerina. Yesterday’s post has full details about the event.

2010 Family and Youth Casting Call
Head to Fletcher’s Boathouse for a day of fishing in the C&O Canal. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association and the National Park Service are hosting a day of fishing and outdoor fun. Instruction and gear will be provided for kids young and old to catch a fish. Activities aren’t limited to casting a line—guests can learn to test water quality, do some fish art, jin a scavenger hunt, and go for their Junior Ranger Badge.

Oceans
If your kids like to watch Discovery Channel shows like “Life” and “Planet Earth,” they will likely enjoy “Oceans,” opening in theaters today. The nature documentary journeys into the depths of the oceans and explores the fascinating marine life that inhabit it. Reviews thus far are mixed, but keep in mind they are coming from adults who expect a decent storyline along with amazing cinematography. Kids will probably be captivated on the imagery alone.

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