Last night, the Free Library of Philadelphia celebrated the grand opening of the new William B. Dietrich Gallery in the Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library. Made possible by a generous gift from the William B. Dietrich Foundation, this 1,000-square-foot gallery space includes a new exhibition area and is equipped with a video screen to enhance exhibition capabilities. Also unveiled was new museum-quality conservation space, along with an updated storage space for the unique holdings of the Theatre Collection, which resides within the Rare Book Department.
The first exhibition mounted in the gallery is Shakespeare For All Time, which runs through May 31 and celebrates the tremendous influence of William Shakespeare on the modern world. Appropriately, this exhibition features the Rare Book Department’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio—one of the rarest books in existence and on display at the Library for the first time in three decades—as well as the Second, Third, and Fourth folios. It also includes rare editions of his plays, many beautifully illustrated, over the course of four centuries, along with objects borrowed from The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, including an early edition of Macbeth. Shakespeare For All Time is presented as part of the Free Library’s Year of the Bard: Shakespeare at 450.
The construction of the William B. Dietrich Gallery took place as part of Building Inspiration: Enhancing the Parkway Central Campus, a multi-phase project to both restore and expand the historic building on the Parkway. Building Inspiration marks the first time in its 87-year history that Parkway Central Library has been extensively renovated. The William B. Dietrich Gallery joins full restorations of the Music Department and Philbrick Hall, as well as the refurbishment of the Shakespeare Park and the building’s exterior and roof, that were completed as part of Building Inspiration.
We hope you stop by sometime soon to check out the William B. Dietrich Gallery and Shakespeare For all Time! The Gallery is open during normal Rare Book Department hours: Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Rare Book Department also offers a general tour of its collections at 11:00 a.m.