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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Spring 2005 > College Row
College Row

From the Folger

The Folger has a handsome new Website. We are inordinately proud of it, but even prouder of its potential to provide new kinds of access and information to the many different public audiences served by this great library. I invite you to take a test browse and see for yourself.

The first thing that a frequent visitor to will notice is that the dramatic black background and static imagery of the previous Website—while strongly evocative of the Folger’s Elizabethan orientation—have been replaced by an even more evocative night shot of the Folger’s Art Deco façade against the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol a mere two blocks away. There is no better way, we think, to emphasize Henry Clay Folger (1879)’s vision of the library as a gift to the American people than to remind every Website visitor of our closeness to the symbolic heart of the nation.

But of course the Website is meant to be used. Scholars have become accustomed to using the Folger online catalog, Hamnet, so that they may know before coming to the library if we hold a rare book that they wish to consult. Many precious research hours at the Folger are saved by this advance knowledge. Members of the general public interested in the library’s plays, concerts and exhibitions have relied on the Website calendar for information about our public programs, just as faculty and graduate students have relied on the Folger Institute Web pages for information about seminars, conferences, colloquia and fellowships. High school teachers have been among our Website’s most frequent visitors, turning to the “Teaching Shakespeare” link for archived lesson plans using primary documents and for other ideas about teaching the plays.

Among the new Website’s features are a virtual tour of the Reading Rooms and our other beautiful spaces, pages of frequently asked questions, and behind-the-scenes pictures and text describing the pioneering conservation techniques used by the library’s conservators. Clips of poetry readings from the Folger’s audio archives are newly available, highlighting the readings of Hardison Poetry Prize winners. Archives of other public programs—including pictures and information about Folger Theatre and Folger Consort performances—also are included. We expect that the “Discover Shakespeare” section, with material and illustrations from the popular Folger Library Shakespeare editions edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, will prove of enormous utility to students at all levels.

But it is the Website’s future that most excites us. Let me offer one wonderful glimpse of that future: the first fully mounted, stand-alone Folger Website exhibition. The Web presentation will be an expanded feature of our spring Great Hall exhibition, David Garrick (1717-79), A Theatrical Life. The exhibition will present Garrick’s long career as a legendary 18th-century actor, playwright and impresario through letters, autographed play manuscripts, promptbooks, memorabilia and the large, ornate Garrick Chair (which must be seen to be believed). It also will highlight his role in the creation of the cultural industry known as bardolatry and his legacy as the creator of new acting styles.

With greatly expanded text and twice as many images as will be featured in the actual exhibition, the Website will allow curators the opportunity to incorporate more of their research and will allow Folger visitors to enrich their experience with additional learning. We see this Website exhibition as the way of the Folger’s electronic future.

Visiting the Folger Website will never take the place of visiting this great library itself. But for some important needs of the Folger’s different public audiences, a visit to the redesigned and expanded site is indispensable and likely to become even more so.

—Gail Kern Paster

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