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There’s still time to visit the exhibition Evolving English at the British Library (closes 3 April 2011, free entry).   I wrote about it during library day in the life a few weeks ago, but wanted to say a little more, as I’ve been thinking about it since.

I loved it!  Actually any exhibition on this subject would interest me, and to see  Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and a letter from Jane Austen is amazing anyway.   But I was also impressed with the way the exhibition was created.

I liked:

  1. Clever way with treasures. This is something that I’ve been considering before and since creating 100 Objects Bradford.  How do you remix your treasures?  Significantly, there are 130 objects on show, which bears out the ideas about “100 or so” I’ve mentioned elsewhere.  Many are star items, as I said above.  But the display uses them to say new and interesting things rather than just putting them there and letting them be wonderful.
  2. But not just treasures. There are plenty of fun, quirky, less known items that help to tell the story.  I particularly loved the Riot Act poster, and a super circus poster starring a GIANT rat.
  3. It’s inclusive. English is a world language, the Library is in a world city, and I felt the exhibition was genuinely trying to address this.
  4. Sense of occasion. This may be the darkest exhibition I’ve ever been into.  There was a real sense of going into a special space.
  5. It’s interactive. You can map your voice by reading Mr Tickle, or just saying six words.

And I would quibble at:

  1. Too much to take in on one visit. I was slightly overwhelmed and had to have a rest in the gift shop (which is one of my favourite shops fortunately).  Alas, I don’t think I will be back in London before the exhibition ends.  I would also like to have gone to the CILIP Rare Books Group event which looked at how the curators put the exhibition together.
  2. Captions were perhaps not detailed enough. I’d have liked more explanation of some of the objects and how the story developed.
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