Bringing the First Folio to Santa Fe!

We wanted to share the story of how Santa Fe became a First Folio destination.

In June 2014, one of the co-organizers of the Santa Fe Shakespeare Close Readers, Edie Murphy, brought the announcement of the project to her co-organizers, Dr. Robin Williams and Dr. Kristin Bundesen. Only one town in each state was going to be selected through an application process to display the First Folio for a month in 2016.

Within a fortnight, we had read through the application process, broken it down in detail, contacted the Folger Shakespeare Institute, assembled a list of possible venues and community partners, and started the process of assembling the strongest possible application. We started talking about the project with our family and friends.

The excitement was contagious!  

The requirements for a host venue were very specific and stringent. The venue had to have 24/7 security, archival-level climate controls, accommodate the case for the First Folio as well as the requisite display panels. There are only a handful of places in Santa Fe that meet these requirements. 

Kristin’s daughter, Hannah Hoel, had done some collaboration with Merry Scully, a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and suggested we pitch her. Within minutes of an email introduction, Merry replied with “we would love to talk about this” and asked for a phone number. Within days, we were meeting with Merry Scully and Mary Kershaw, Director of the Museum. 

The application also required two scholars-of-record and a long list of community partners. Between Kristin and Robin, letters of commitment were gathered from scholars at the ‘great books’ institution, St. John’s College; the director of Library Services at the Institute for American Indian Arts; the Friends of the Santa Fe Library; Renesan Institute for Lifelong Learning; John Andrews, Director of the Shakespeare Guild; Dr. Robert Benedetti, New Mexico Actors Lab, Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer; and of course the Close Readers group. Kristin and Robin also developed a long list of creative activities to promote public interest in and community involvement with the Folio project. We knew we had to compete against several other towns in New Mexico!

In the midst of this, Carmen Vendelin joined the Museum as a curator and took on the responsibilities of Program Director. She had the enormous task of pulling all the disparate pieces together for the long and complex application. October 2014 seemed like an endless email exchange editing the application materials to meet content and word-count restrictions. A quick check of Kristin’s email archive shows 300+ email messages between 9/29 and 10/23 gathering material and crafting responses. 

The application was successful! Santa Fe won! In August 2015 when Kristin met with some of the Folger staff working on the First Folio project, they all commented on the strength of our application.

So that’s how Santa Fe got the First Folio. We look forward to February!