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Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA)

A message from our director

The Folger is proud to be part of Washington, DC, a diverse and vibrant city that is a living stage for history and drama of contemporary life. Our world class collection of rare books and manuscripts inspires continuing exploration of the very human stories that Shakespeare tried to capture in his plays, stories that we encounter through live performances, exhibitions, research, and educational programming. We embrace DEIA because it is core to our values. We live that value when we welcome and engage audiences that are more diverse, more immersed in technology, and more attracted to experiences that speak inclusively to the human experience. —Michael Witmore

Land acknowledgement

Today, in the area now known as Washington, DC, thousands of Indigenous people from more than a dozen tribes live, work, and create their futures. Historically, this region at the confluence of two rivers served as a trading center for many tribes in the larger Chesapeake region. These communities suffered devastating harms—violence, disease, and displacement—in the wake of European settler colonialism from the 1600s on, which decimated the Indigenous population.

We acknowledge that the Folger sits on the ancestral lands of Indigenous tribes including the Nacotchtank people (also known as the Anacostans). The Folger is now engaged in a multi-year process of understanding, acknowledging, and engaging the history of the land on which we sit. Through this work we seek to build and sustain trust and continuing relationships with tribal communities, to acknowledge the harms of settler colonialism, to provide appropriate access to and promote research on materials that document Indigenous histories, and to support and amplify the work of Indigenous researchers and creators.

Our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility statement

As an organization, we recognize the importance of having challenging conversations about identity, privilege, power dynamics, and oppression, and of working with all our communities to reduce barriers to access. We value the health, safety, dignity, respect, and well-being of our visitors, volunteers, staff, partners, community, and particularly those whose voices have been marginalized. We are actively and specifically prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) to ensure a welcoming environment, starting with our home in the District.

Our mission and values commit us to:

  • making diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility a guide for thought and action
  • embracing anti-racism as a foundational source of change
  • building stronger and more varied relationships with DC organizations and institutions
  • connecting with local, national, and international communities with bold, thoughtful cross-institutional programming
  • engaging with learners of all ages, stages, and abilities
  • creating more welcoming experiences
  • transparency in our approach to collections, programming, histories (including our own) and individuals
  • expanding access to our collection

We invite you to return to this space, and to join us when we reopen our building in June 2024, to see more of how we put our values and promises into action.

Definitions of DEIA at the Folger


The Folger understands diversity to describe the wide range of identities, perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of each individual. When we support and value the multiple perspectives and identities people bring to common goals, we expand our sense of belonging and our work to become an anti-racist organization. We honor and respect each individual’s capacity for self-definition.


The Folger defines equity as working with individuals to ensure that the pathways of access and opportunity they need to thrive are present and available. Equity is a form of action which requires intentionally recognizing, naming, and tearing down systems that create unnecessary barriers and replacing with systems of appropriate support to meet an individual’s needs.


The Folger defines inclusion as an environment of belonging and dignity, maintained through a culture of respecting and welcoming people of all backgrounds. Inclusive environments are intentional in their cultivation of diverse voices through experiences and activities that create spaces where people can feel empowered to engage and participate productively.


The Folger defines accessibility as creating physical, digital, and cultural environments that enable all individuals to fully participate at the Folger. Accessibility requires providing multiple options for interaction with and within the Folger, across a variety of neurodiverse, physical, and linguistic approaches. At its core, accessibility is about ensuring no one is turned away for the lack of a dignified entry, but instead welcomed in ways that create space for individual success within the organization.

What we’re working on

In 2021, the Folger partnered with Promise54 to complete a deep review of our internal processes, procedures, and staff culture with a lens for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). Through staff surveys, focus groups, and an equity audit for our internal talent systems, Promise54 analyzed where we were and worked with us in creating an implementation plan focused on how to best advance our internal equity work.

Our three-year implementation plan to improve the staff experience focuses on five key areas: recruitment/hiring; compensation; staff development and advancement; leadership; and strategy and culture. The plan encompasses a range of activities including revamping our annual evaluation process, creating promotional paths that are clear and achievable, expanding professional development opportunities, developing a standardized compensation audit process, committing to a more inclusive and equitable decision making process, and more.

We are following our plan closely, with regular updates to our staff. As of fall 2022 we have:

  • conducted a salary survey and implemented the first round of salary adjustments
  • revised benefits offerings to provide greater access
  • implemented stronger recruitment training for all hiring managers
  • begun work on assessing staff needs for training and development
  • contracted with Promise54 for additional work on leadership development
  • established staff affinity groups and a DEIA committee made up of staff from across the organization
  • and much more!

The Folger knows that continuing to be a welcoming workplace requires ongoing work, and we commit to continuously assessing and improving our organization.