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UCL Library Services Exhibitions

UCL Library Services has extensive archives including rare books, manuscripts, personal papers, historical records and artefacts across a range of subjects. Each year there are themed exhibitions in the Main Library that draw particularly on highlights from UCL Special Collections. There are also both temporary and permanent exhibitions at other UCL libraries. On occasion, the libraries arrange exhibitions at alternative UCL and external locations too.

Current exhibitions
Aesop's fable-style Fox & Grapes Imperial War Museums First World War Centenary logo

The current exhibition in the Main Library commemorates the start of World War I. Exhibits drawn from UCL Special Collections’ Little Magazines, College Archives and the 1914-18 Collection are illustrative of the European Avant-Garde and the use of art as propaganda. More personal impressions of the Great War experienced at first hand and individuals from the roll of honour are also profiled.

The exhibition runs from February to December 2014.

Past exhibitions

Natsume Sōseki, the Greatest Novelist in Modern Japan

Natsume Sōseki
21st November-18th December 2013, Main Library

UCL Library Services and Tohoku University Library held the collaborative exhibition, "Natsume Sōseki, the Greatest Novelist in Modern Japan" to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of UK-Japan Academic Interaction.

Tohoku University has a long tradition as a national university in Japan, and the library is one of the largest and well-stocked libraries.

Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) is the most famous and respected novelist in Japan. He stayed in England for two years as a Japanese government scholarship student, and studied English literature at UCL for a short period.

Items on display were a part of the Natsume Sōseki Collection which Tohoku University library has as a rare and special collection, consisting of about 3,000 books that he collected and his extensive manuscripts.

Exhibits from Natsume Sōseki exhibition

Flaxman and his circle

Flaxman images

This exhibition in the Main Library illustrated the world that John Flaxman inhabited in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the story of the adjacent Flaxman Gallery. Exhibits included documents relating to the making of the Gallery, as well as items that drew on the man himself, his circle of friends and contemporaries.

The exhibition ran until November 2013.

A Capital City : London events and anniversaries in 2012

Dickens’ signature  Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Tour outside UCH, June 1953  Royal Free Hospital & London School of Medicine for Women.  100 Yds Challenge Cup

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections, SSEES and Cruciform Libraries, with additional items on loan from the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the UCL Union, February-November 2012.

UCL Library Services celebrated 2012 with exhibitions in the Main Library that focussed on key anniversaries with a London connection:

Charles Dickens at 200
Charles Dickens drew much inspiration from London in his writing and lived in and around Bloomsbury for many years. Items on display included correspondence with the nineteenth-century reformers Edwin Chadwick and Henry Brougham, who both had close links with UCL, as well as one of the first editions of Dickens’ novels held by Special Collections.

An additional Dickens’s London exhibition was arranged with the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction and the Department of English Language and Literature.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
Special Collections holds the papers of Hugh Gaitskell, formerly Head of UCL’s Department of Political Economy and later Leader of the Labour Party. This display drew primarily on documents from this collection relating to the Queen’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in June 1953.

Sports ancient and modern
This display celebrated the Olympics and included items from Ancient Greece, when unity and physical prowess underlined the first Olympic Games, and papers from the Olympic Congress held in Paris in 1914, at which the symbol of five interlocking rings was adopted for the Olympic flag. The athletic achievements of UCL’s students were also represented with team photographs and trophies from the nineteenth century to the present day.

An Enquiring Mind: Francis Galton 1822-1911

Francis Galton images

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections, with additional items on loan from UCL Museums & Collections, March-December 2011. Opened by Sir Mark Walport on 7 April 2011.

This exhibition in the Main Library was part of a Galton Centenary programme taking place at UCL to mark the anniversary of Sir Francis Galton's death in January 1911. Deposited at UCL by his executors, Special Collections holds papers and correspondence relating to Galton's personal history, family and scientific work, while Museums & Collections holds his scientific instruments and other personal memorabilia.

Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, was a significant figure in his own right as his knighthood, fellowship of the Royal Society and other distinctions attest. His contributions to understanding of weather systems, fingerprinting, statistical methods and genetics are as relevant today as they were in his lifetime. Providing a window onto his private life as well as a sample of his many and diverse interests and investigations, items on display in this exhibition ranged from family mementos and evidence of Galton as a child prodigy, to the records and output of his research and enduring fascination with measurement.

Videos about Francis Galton

Excerpt from talk entitled "Ideas Man: The Stranger Notions of Sir Francis Galton" given by Dan Maier on 7th June 2011

Filmmaker: Tom Guerrier

Jolly Good Fellows: UCL and the Royal Society

Jolly Good Fellows: UCL and the Royal Society

The Royal Society officially dates its foundation to November 1660 when a group of learned men including Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle created "a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning". 2010 marked 350 years of the Society, and to celebrate the occasion, this exhibition of material from UCL Library Services' Special Collections was created to focus on nine academics from UCL's past who were also Fellows of the Royal Society.

The exhibition ran until the end of 2010.

Innovators and Educators: UCL and Bloomsbury in the 19th Century

Innovators and Educators: UCL and Bloomsbury in the 19th Century

This exhibition of material from UCL Special Collections looked at some of the innovative institutions and individuals which flourished in and around UCL in the 19th Century. It was inspired by and organized in conjunction with the Bloomsbury Project, led by Professor Rosemary Ashton of the English Department, which was undertaking wider research into the remarkable number of reforming institutions and people that congregated in the Bloomsbury area during the 19th Century.

The exhibition focused on individuals and institutions connected with UCL. There were papers from some of the early professors, including letters from John Elliotson, an innovative doctor and Professor of Medicine, who undertook controversial experiments with 'mesmerism' or hypnosis at University College Hospital (UCH) in the 1830s, as well as unexpectedly light-hearted cartoons and sketches by Augustus de Morgan, Professor of Mathematics here for over 30 years. There was material about some of the influential societies which used UCL as a meeting place, such as the Graphic Society, or which grew out of the activities of UCL staff and students, like the London Mathematical Society which was founded by UCL students in 1865. There were reproductions of paintings and life drawings from the Slade School of Fine Art, which was the first British art school to allow women to draw from a live model, as well as plans and photographs of the original buildings of both UCL and its counterpart on the other side of Gower Street, UCH. Finally, maps from the London History collection illustrated the growth and development of the area during the course of the 19th Century.

Charles Darwin Of Gower Street: His life and work, and influence at UCL

Charles Darwin collage

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections, September 2008 - April 2009. Opened by Professor Steve Jones, Head of the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, on 27 October 2008.

It has been 26 years since UCL Library Services last held an exhibition about Charles Darwin, on that occasion marking 100 years since his death. The extensive catalogue prepared by Richard Freeman was a rich source of information for this new selection. The Darwin200 programme of events, marking the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and 150 years since the publication of On the origin of species, provided a fresh opportunity to showcase material held by UCL Library Services Special Collections, which include the personal libraries and papers of Sir Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.

The items selected for this exhibition reflected Darwin's life, work and the influence of theories of inheritance and evolution on his contemporaries and successors, including eminent UCL people.

Charting China: Early views of China through European eyes

Charting China collage

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections. Opened by Professor Moira Yip, UCL Pro-Provost for China, Hong Kong and Macao, on 7th February 2008.

There is a long history of contact between Europe and China and of European interest in all aspects of the country - its culture and language, its geography and history, its society and traditions. That interest has long been shared by UCL as one of the first universities in Britain to make provision for the study of China.

This exhibition sought to illustrate UCL's early concern with China and through historical items from UCL Library Services Special Collections show the extent of western fascination with China from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Life Study: Representations of Health and Disease

Life Study collage

An exhibition of material from UCL's Biomedicine & Health Libraries, Special Collections and the UCL Art Collections. Opened by Professor Edward Byrne, Dean of UCL Biomedical Sciences, September 2007.

The close connection between art and medicine has long been recognised, from the skill of the anatomical illustrator to the beauty that can be perceived in both classical and modern representations of the body in health and disease states. Serving to educate both scientists and artists since ancient times, the progress of artistic and printing techniques can be traced in illustrations from early woodcuts to the fine detail of more recent lithographic and digital processes.

This exhibition celebrated the rich collection of rare and interesting medical books and illustrations at UCL's Biomedicine & Health Libraries and Special Collections, together with material from the UCL Art Collections. The selection provided a sense of the diversity of the collections that is an inspirational resource for teaching and research.

A Box of Useful Knowledge: Law, the Library and UCL

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections. Opened by Lord Woolf on 14th December 2006.

UCL was the first University to attempt the systematic teaching of English Law from its foundation in 1826. From the start its Library has supported that study by collecting and preserving the legal materials required by students and staff. This exhibition celebrated the long relationship between UCL Library Services and the Laws Faculty, with a selection of items from its Special Collections which illustrate the study and teaching of law over the centuries and the links of prominent jurists to UCL from its inception.

Remember the days of old: Celebrating Jewish connections

An exhibition at UCL Main Library Staircase, June - November 2006.

UCL's relationship with the Jewish community stretches right back to its beginnings, when a successful financier, Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, brought together the poet Thomas Campbell and the politician Henry Brougham on the project to found a new university in London that would embrace all "non-establishment" groups. Goldsmid was also one of the major vendors, until its transference to the University, of the eight-acre site in Bloomsbury which is now home to UCL.

The Jewish Historical Society of England owes its origins to a major Anglo-Jewish exhibition held in 1887, when the story of England's Jews was told for the first time in public, giving rise to a new recognition and appreciation of the history of Anglo-Jewry. From its foundation in 1893 the Society had no settled base, but in 1905 UCL started allowing Society lectures and gatherings to take place on its premises. One of the Society's early pioneers and most prominent members, Frederic Mocatta, has also come to occupy a special place in the story of UCL's historical collections.

This exhibition was a celebration not only of UCL's long history of connections with the Anglo-Jewish community but also of the centenary of the transfer of Mocatta's magnificent collection to UCL and the 350th anniversary of the re-admission of Jews into England.

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