Docents' Tales, and a Farewell to the First Folio

First Folio

After a too-short, 23-day stay in Kansas City, a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio is moving on for display elsewhere. Since its arrival in our city on June 6, it has drawn crowds daily, filling the Library with people eager to catch a glimpse of history through this rare book as it makes its way from state to state.

Although each state gets its turn with a Folio, one thing that will not be found outside Kansas City are the University of Missouri-Kansas City-trained docents that have accompanied the book during its stay here. It has been our job as docents to share the story of the Folio with visitors, to share lesser known facts and fascinating information about the book, about print culture, and about Shakespeare. While it was our goal to give patrons the best experience possible during their visit, it truly has been special to be a part of this exhibit and all of us have gained much from the experience ourselves.

As the exhibit, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, wraps up Tuesday, June 28, I would like to join two other docents in sharing what we've drawn from this unique experience.

Amy Strassner, a senior at UMKC, focuses on the printing process of 1623. "The materials we have for use in our presentations—such as samples of the cotton-based rag paper used in the First Folio, reproductions of movable type pieces, examples of folio and quarto publications, and depictions of a 1623 print shop—have enhanced the experience," she says. "These materials have helped to put the laborious printing process of the First Folio into perspective for myself, as a student, and for library patrons who are interested in how the Folio remains in existence today."

For Danica Otten, a UMKC junior, the greatest joy of being a docent has been seeing others interact with Shakespeare. She highlights an introductory letter found in the Folio that reads "to the great variety of readers."

Danica has seen this "great variety" firsthand. "From the young, aspiring actor to the retired Shakespeare film aficionado, I have loved hearing of others' love for the Bard and have so enjoyed celebrating, with each visitor, the book that preserved his works," she says. Seeing others interact with Shakespeare "has strengthened my admiration for Shakespeare and ... encouraged me to continue in exploring the vast world of his plays and times."

As for myself, the best part about being a docent for this exhibit has been watching people connect with Shakespeare in ways that they never have before. Almost everyone knows at least a bit about Shakespeare, yet few are familiar with the First Folio or the impact it has had on the modern image of the Bard.

It has been a joy to see the amazement of patrons when they find out that their favorite play would have been lost without the Folio or that a phrase they use every day was coined by Shakespeare. I have loved seeing children who are just as excited to see the book as AP literature teachers and actors and the enthusiasm of security guards who use spare minutes to steal a glance. Everyone has been able to pull some new bit of information from this exhibit, even the Shakespearean experts. Helping them discover how Shakespeare and the Folio impact their lives has been the best experience I could have imagined.

I believe I speak for all the docents when I say that I will always be grateful to the UMKC English Department and the Kansas City Public Library for providing me and my fellow students with such an amazing and unique experience. We never would have had access to such a great opportunity without the hard work of multiple people in these institutions. It will be with a heavy heart that we say good bye to the First Folio, but the impact it has had on the people of Kansas City during its stay should be a great comfort to us all.

Big thanks are due to the Folger Shakespeare Library for providing us with this exhibit for the month of June. You can always check out information about the Folio and photos of copies owned by the Folger at its website (www.folger.edu).

By Rebecca Adams, Library intern