Amongst the Library’s extraordinary collection of around eight million printed books, manuscripts and digital holdings are some unusual and unexpected items. From an ostrich feather and ectoplasm to an old boot, a boomerang and beard hair sent to Charles Darwin, the curious objects in the second public exhibition of our 600th anniversary year come from all corners of the world and span every era of human history from the Stone Age to the Space Age.
Research for the exhibition has turned up new and rediscovered finds, including the oldest objects in the Library, two black-topped pots from Predynastic Egypt, and the oldest written artefact, a Sumerian clay tablet from around 2200 BCE. Items on view will also include fragments of wall paintings from Pompeii, a two-foot-long seventeenth-century print which is the only evidence we have of the very first slide-rule, a nineteenth-century wooden toy theatre and a Soviet space badge celebrating the Soiuz–Apollo meeting in 1975.
All have a part to play in telling the story of the University Library, a story told not through its printed and manuscript treasures, but through a cabinet of curiosities that opens a window onto the nature of collecting, private and institutional. Shabby and beautiful, quirky and controversial, all the objects on display provoke our curiosity and prompt questions about the nature of the Library—past, present and future.
'Curious Objects' will open to the public on Thursday 3 November, and will run until 21 March 2017.