Library Services


Previous exhibitions

Archive of themed exhibitions hosted in the Main Library and Student Centre at UCL.
Detail from the cover of Black Orpheus

Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections

Across UCL Library Services, staff members, students, and volunteers have been working together to discover, record, and celebrate the diverse voices in our collections. Through several projects, overseen by the Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group, we have gained a better understanding of our collections and improved their accessibility.

Exhibit object, 'Romance of the Sultan Akbar'

Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins

Inspired by the Slade 150th anniversary, and curated in partnership with students of the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL, this exhibition explored the permeable borders between art and writing in a rich variety of formats that celebrate the way in which we have embellished the word.

Cast of medal showing Oliver Cromwell

Rebel, React, Reform: Making the UK Parliament

Throughout its history the English, then British Parliament has been challenged and re-modelled. Calls for change have come from both outside Parliament and from within, as MPs have rebelled against their sovereign, reacted to injustices, and worked tirelessly for reform. This exhibition explored some of the key moments of change in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries using manuscripts, archives and rare books from UCL Special Collections.

Interior of The General Library, now known as the Donaldson Library. Circa 1910

From Small Library Beginnings: a brief history of UCL Library Services

In 2019 we joined the Department of Information Studies to celebrate 100 years of UCL’s School of Librarianship. This exhibition narrated the history of our libraries from the earliest presence in the 1820s to the multi-site department of today. Built on foundations of donations and bequests, they hold notable collections including Frederic David Mocatta’s private library, and the Little Magazines. Key to their development, library spaces, librarians, researchers and students are also represented in this selection of items from UCL Special Collections.

Part of front cover of Votes for women Volume 1

"Dangers and Delusions"? Perspectives on the women's suffrage movement

The movement calling for women's right to vote in the UK was drawn out over several decades and generated intense differences of opinion, not only between those for and against electoral equality, but also within pro- and anti-suffrage campaigns. This exhibition of UCL Special Collections items - satirical commentaries, campaign literature, personal notes and petitions - examined the actions and reactions surrounding the case for universal suffrage, from the 1860s up to the first legislative step towards equality for women: the Representation of the People Act, 1918.

Part of front cover of 'Vagabondiana'

East Side Stories: Londoners in transition

East London has a long and fascinating history of regeneration and change and this exhibition shone a spotlight on people’s everyday lives as the metropolis expanded and new communities emerged. Illustrated by items from the London History, Jewish, Chadwick and Hayward collections as well as the Inner London Education Authority archive, it provided snapshots of lived experiences across education, trade, leisure and health.

Part of front cover of Shakespeare complete works, reprinted

Fair play and foul: connecting with Shakespeare at UCL

Engaging with events marking 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death in 2016, this exhibition considered the playwright’s influence on language and learning, the continuing reinterpretation of his work in the modern curriculum and the perennial fascination with the Bard that gave rise to a cause célèbre in the late 18th century. Shakespeare’s patrons, peers, scholars and imitators were represented in items drawn from our collections and archives, alongside the teaching resources used to introduce new generations of children to his work.

The Five Vowels

Queen of the Sciences: a celebration of numbers and the LMS

In 2015 Library Services marked the 150th anniversary of the London Mathematical Society (LMS) with this exhibition, jointly curated with the Society. The LMS, which has its origins in the University College Mathematics Society, held its inaugural meeting on 16 January 1865. Prior to this, the influential German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) was reported to have referred to Mathematics as ‘the Queen of the Sciences’ and number theory as ‘the Queen of Mathematics’, underscoring the importance of both in scientific understanding.

'The hare and the tortoise’ by F. Sancha

Art and Honour : contemporary impressions of WWI

Commemorating the start of World War I in 1914, this exhibition in the Main Library drew on individual experiences of the war – combatants, pacifists, poets, propagandists, humourists, satirists – set alongside a vibrant and experimental profusion of art. It included items from the 1914-18 and Little Magazine collections as well as the College Archives.

Campi Phlegraei by Hamilton

Flaxman and his Circle

This exhibition was part of a celebration of the sculptor John Flaxman RA (1755-1826) with several events taking place at UCL and beyond during 2013, and following the refurbishment of the Flaxman Gallery in 2012. The UCL Art Museum holds a unique collection of Flaxman’s work and additional archives are held in UCL Special Collections.

Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Tour passing the University College Hospital

A Capital City : London events and anniversaries in 2012

In 2012 this exhibition celebrated three anniversaries and events with a London connection; the Olympic Games, the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As well as items from the library collections, materials on display included artefacts loaned from the UCL Institute of Archaeology and sporting trophies held by UCL’s medical students.

A pedigree horse with trainer, taken by Francis Galton

An Enquiring Mind: Francis Galton 1822-1911

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.

Caricature of Lankester from Vanity Fair, taken from UCL's Digital Collections

Jolly Good Fellows: UCL and the Royal Society

An exhibition of material from UCL Special Collections, July - December 2010. This is a tale of two institutions, both with a home in London but possessing global reach, and both charged with missions to gather, generate and transmit knowledge for a greater good.

Colour framed print of the of the University of London Building

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

A 2010 exhibition of UCL Special Collections materials opened by Professor Rosemary Ashton, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature. Since its 1826 foundation, UCL has been closely identified with London's area of Bloomsbury. The Bloomsbury Project, led by Professor Ashton, invesitgated these links and the remarkable concentration of reforming institutions and individuals which occupied the area in the 19th Century. The exhibition highlighted the Project's work and displayed some of UCL Libraries' rich source material.

Portrait of Charles Darwin towards the end of his life, by Elliot and Fry

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

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

Coloured plate from Gersdorff's 'Handbook of military surgery'

Life Study: Representations of Health and Disease

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', a caricature of Lord Brougham

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

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.

Montage of photos and items taken from the 'Celebrating Jewish Connections' exhibition

Remember the days of old: Celebrating Jewish connections

UCL's relationship with the Jewish community stretches right back to its beginnings, when 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. This exhibition celebrated UCL's long history of connections with the Anglo-Jewish community and 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.