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Paster Reading Room

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Gail Kern Paster Reading Room

Paster Reading Room

By day, scholars from around the world gather here to do research using our unique collection of books and manuscripts. By night, the Gail Kern Paster Reading Room can be the site for an elegant dinner or reception. This treasured room is only open to the general public one day a year, on the Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration held in April. Formerly known as the Old Reading Room, it was renamed in 2011 for retiring Folger director Gail Kern Paster.


Built like the great hall of an Elizabethan house, the 131-foot Paster Reading Room incorporates sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French and Flemish tapestries, carved oak paneling, a high trussed roof, and a large fireplace.


On the hall screen at the east end hang portraits of the Folgers in their academic robes, painted by the British artist Frank O. Salisbury. Above the Salisbury portraits is a bust of Shakespeare based on his memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. The ashes of both Folgers are interred behind a memorial plaque.


At the west end is one of the Folger's treasures, a large stained-glass window depicting the Seven Ages of Man from Jaques's speech in As You Like It.

  • 27 by 93 feet
  • 30-foot ceiling
  • Available evenings only
  • Maximum capacity :
    • Reception only, 250
    • Dinner only, 180
    • Reception and dinner, 100
  • Can be used in combination with adjoining Great Hall
  • Lighting and music restrictions may apply 
  • Red wine permitted for seated dinners only


Contact the Office of Special Events by phone at 202.675.0375 or by e-mail at specialevents@folger.edu.

Paster Reading Room

Paster Reading Room

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201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
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Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623