Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Shakespeare Unbound: A Campuswide Special Exhibit

UMass celebrates the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s “First Folio”
Paige Hanson

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s “First Folio” with “Shakespeare Unbound: A Campuswide Special Exhibit.”

The exhibit opened on Sept. 27 and will be at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies until the end of May 2024.

The collection of Shakespeare materials has been put on loan to UMass through a private collector. These items include multiple editions of Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” Shakespeare’s sonnets from the late 17th century and a page from the Gutenberg Bible.

Works by Phillis Wheatley and W.E.B. Du Bois, who famously engaged with Shakespeare’s work, are also being presented in the lower level of the Du Bois Library.

“One thing we decided was that we had Du Bois Library as a kind of set, fixed show across two whole floors and we had the Kinney Center, which is a smaller rare book reading room where we could throughout the year rotate books in and out of the exhibit,” stated professor Marjorie Rubright, one of the curators of Shakespeare Unbound.

The curators didn’t want the exhibit to look “very, very tidy like your final draft of an English paper.” They wanted spectators to see the history that each of these objects lived through.

Shakespeare Unbound curator professor Joe Black recalled, “We have a ‘First Folio: Romeo and Juliet’ that has been gnawed at by rats or mice. I’m not quite sure, we need a biologist to tell us which it was.”

The story of early printing is highlighted at the Renaissance Center while the lower level of W.E.B. Du Bois shows how Shakespeare’s works have influenced conversations throughout history.

“Some people are really interested in the physical texts and really see how changes in texts have happened,” said Shakespeare Unbound curator Kirstin Kay. “Some are really interested in the evolutions of the plays because the texts have actually not stayed the same. Other people have tweaked them along the way.”

The 25th floor of the Du Bois Library is home to Special Collections, which holds the highlights of the Shakespeare collection. Multiple UMass classes have been to the Special Collections to view Shakespeare’s rarest works of literature.

There is one goal that the curators really want to aim at when it comes to this exhibition: student engagement.

“One thing we know as teachers is that one of the most exciting ways students can do ‘original research’ is to just literally walk over to Du Bois Library or walk over to the Kinney Center and open up a book that’s 400 years old and start exploring it,” Rubright said.

Students are encouraged to explore work-study and internship options at Special Collections and the opportunity to potentially present their own exhibits at the Kinney Center.

“Shakespeare Unbound: A Campuswide Special Exhibit” is currently displaying “Noble Fragments” and will be displaying other exhibits throughout the academic year including “Renaissance of the Earth” and “Shakespeare in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

To find out more about “Shakespeare Unbound: A Campuswide Special Exhibit,” visit the “Shakespeare Unbound’ website.

Paige Hanson can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @Paige_Hanson1.

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