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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and one of the world's greatest libraries. Set up in 1973, with galleries formerly in the British Museum building, it moved to its spectacular flagship new home at St Pancras in Central London in 1997.
The John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library, PACCAR Gallery of Living Words and the Workshop of Words, Sound and Images offer permanent displays and a changing programme of special thematic exhibitions. We also have the best permanent display of stamps and philately in the world.
The King's Library, housed in a 17-metre glass-walled tower at the heart of the building, plus a number of major works of art, can be seen by all visitors. The Library also offers a wide programme of events, including talks, music and discussions, all developing themes and ideas associated with the collections.
Archive, Library, Gallery
Mon, Wed-Fri 0930-1800
Sun and English Public Holidays 1100-1700
Closed: 24 - 28 December
Closing at 17.00 23 and 29 - 31 December
FREE ENTRY to the Library
Major exhibitions are charged
Permanent Treasures Gallery FREE
The British Library is custodian of the most important research collection in the world, spanning almost 3,000 years and every continent. This covers books, journals, manuscripts, stamps, patents, sound recordings, printed music and maps.
The John Ritblat Gallery is home to a permanent exhibition of over 200 of the Library's most significant items. These include the Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350), Magna Carta (1215), the Gutenberg Bible (1455), and Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) as well as religious, literary, historical and musical works in the handwriting of Leonardo da Vinci, Lord Nelson, Lewis Carroll, Handel, Sir Paul McCartney and many others.
The award-winning Turning the Pages was developed by the Library and uses high quality digitised images to simulate actually turning the pages of a precious book. The PACCAR Gallery is home to temporary exhibitions. The Workshop of Words, Sound and Images is an interactive gallery which traces the story of book production and sound recording.
Items from this collection
World Cultures, Social History, Science and Technology, Religion, Personalities, Music, Literature, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives
Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain
- 8 November 2013 — 11 March 2014 *on now
Drawing on the British Library’s uniquely rich and rare collections of illustrated books, newspapers, maps and advertisements, as well as loaned artworks and artefacts, Georgians Revealed brings to life the trials and triumphs of the ordinary people who transformed Britain forever.
Adult Gift Aid £10 | Under 18s free | Concessions available
Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight
- 20 February — 26 May 2014 *on now
Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.
Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph, and map the mass data of the time.
From John Snow’s plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map, to a colourful digital tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives. www.bl.uk/beautiful-science
Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK
- 2 May — 19 August 2014
Featuring some of the biggest names in comics, including Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) and Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum), the British comics tradition stretches back to the Victorian era and beyond.
The show will explore the full potential of the medium, demystifying the process of creating comics, while presenting work that is challenging to the status quo. Its materials unflinchingly examine issues around gender, violence, sexuality, drug-taking and politics.
Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour
- 19 June — 12 October 2014
A major part of the Library's contribution to the World War One Centenary, Enduring War examines how people coped with life during the war: from moments of patriotic fervour to periods of anxious inactivity, shock and despair.
Through posters, poetry, art, books and pamphlets from the period, the exhibition considers attempts to boost morale at home and in the field, as well as presenting individual responses to the conflict, such as letters from Indian soldiers on the Western Front, schoolboys' descriptions of Zeppelin raids over London and examples of the black humour expressed in trench journals.
The exhibition will also highlight the Library's work for Europeana Collections 1914-1918, a major pan-European project to digitise more than 400,000 items from World War One.
Accompanying the exhibition will be an extensive series of public events and discussions, as well as programmes for schools and teachers.
Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
- 3 October 2014 — 27 January 2015
In October 2014 the British Library will stage the UK’s most comprehensive show of Gothic literature yet. Marking 250 years since the genre burst into undead life with the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Terror and Wonder will explore the enduring influence it has had, not just on literature, but film, fashion, music and art ever since.
The exhibition will explore how literary greats, such as Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole, broke conventions with 18th century gothic masterpieces, paving the way for some of the most imaginative minds of literature, from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Mervyn Peake and Angela Carter.
- Any age
Beyond Nature versus Nurture
- 11 March 2014 6:30-9pm *on now
Epigenetics has enabled researchers to move beyond the 'nature vs. nurture' debate, to examine how we became the people we are. Hear how your genes can interact with environmental factors to change your physiology and development, and consider the social and ethical consequences of this field. Have your say on what you think about the matter.
£8.00/ £6.00 over 60s/ £5.00 concessions.
Counting Sheep: The Science of Sleep
- 14 March 2014 5-9:30pm
Professor Vince Walsh is joined by Professor Russell Foster and other sleep experts for an interactive evening of science, art and improvised opera exploring the stuff that dreams are made of. Find out how our body clocks determine the rhythms of life, and what happens when we don’t get enough sleep. Explore the sounds of sleep with the British Library’s resident experts, and sip on some sleep-themed cocktails in this collaborative event hosted by the British Library and UCL Neuroscience. You will also get the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session.
£8.00 (£6.00 Over 60s) and £5.00.
Knowledge is Beautiful
- 21 March 2014 6:30-8pm
David McCandless’ captivating graphic book Information is Beautiful brought data of all types to vivid life. It is to be followed by Knowledge is Beautiful, a new trip into questions and facts on history, politics, science, literature and much more, all designed in his surprising visual style. Here David presents some of his fantastic visualisations.
£8 / £6 over 60s / £5 concessions
Access to Understanding
- 24 March 2014 7-9pm
Access to Understanding is a science-writing competition. At this award ceremony we will recognise researchers with an interest in communicating science to the public. Come along and hear the exciting stories behind the latest findings in biomedical and health research.
Booking essential. Find out more and book tickets online here: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event156408.html
Spring Festival 2014
- 27 — 31 March 2014
Whether you’re making a film or designing a fashion line, find inspiration at our Spring Festival.
Our events give you a unique opportunity to explore our collections. Be surprised, amazed and excited. We are not your typical Library. No one will be shushing you. Come and play, meet other creatives and share your ideas.
Simply looking for something fun to do in London? Spring Festival ticks that box too.
Hanif Kureishi – My Beautiful Film Career
- 29 March 2014 1:30-6pm
From My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) to Le Weekend (2013) celebrated filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist Hanif Kureishi reflects on his work in film. Join Hanif and his film collaborators as they introduce screenings of some of his highly acclaimed work.
£20 / £16 over 60s / £14 concessions
Puttin’ on the Glitz – Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age
- 29 March 2014 6:30-8pm
Fashion expert extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart transports you to the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood and the costumes that impacted London fashion. She draws on the Library’s collection of vintage magazines in this talk with Chris Laverty, editor of the popular blog Clothes on Film.
£8.00 / £6.00 over 60s / £5.00 concessions.
All About Alice
- 8 — 9 April 2014 11am-3pm
Hunt the White Rabbit, create a curious upside-down, inside- out wonderland, play strange, silly or sensible games and so much more. But! Remember Rule forty-two. "All persons more than a mile high to leave."
- Any age
Lectures and Reception: Silk on the Silk Road
- 11 April 2014 2-8pm
Over a century of archaeology on the eastern Silk Road has resulted in thousands of textile finds, preserved by the dry desert air. In their variety - of material, dyes, designs and weaves - they demonstrate the richness of cultural and technical exchanges among the peoples of the Silk Road. The speakers will consider these textiles, their original uses - from clothing to currency - their discovery and subsequent conservation, analysis, research and digitisation. Q and A opportunities will be incorporated throughout the session.
£12.00 / £8.00 concessions.
Cityread London: Louisa Young
- 14 April 2014 6:30-8pm
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You relates the story of Riley and Nadine, the horrors of the trenches and the genesis of plastic surgery, and is the chosen book for Cityread London 2014.
£8.00 / £6.00 over 60s / £5.00 concessions.
Seeing is Believing: Picturing the Nation’s Health
- 24 April 2014 6:45-8pm
Join UK Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies and David Spiegelhalter, University of Cambridge Winton Professor for the Understanding of Risk and author of the Norm Chronicles, for a discussion about our perception of risk when it comes to our health. From Florence Nightingale to the work of contemporary public health professionals, explore how picturing health information can reveal hidden meaning and change lives. Author and Radio 4 presenter Michael Blastland will chair the evening.
£8.00, (£6.00 Over 60s) and £5.00.
Michael Katakis and Michael Palin: An Evening with Two Travellers
- 30 April 2014 6:30-8pm
Writer and photographer Michael Katakis and fellow author and presenter Michael Palin share a love of exploration and new human encounters, often in some of the most remarkable places in the world.
At this event they discuss their experiences and read from their books and journals. Michael Katakis also introduces his polemical new book about America, A Thousand Shards of Glass.
£8 / £6 over 60s / £5 concessions
Campaign! Make an Impact
This national cross-curricular programme uses history to inspire young people into active citizenship. Historical campaigns inspire and teach campaign skills, enabling children and young people to run their own campaigns about issues that affect them today. It’s based around a three step model on our website.
Students can explore campaign skills, and learn how campaigners have constructed their messages in creative ways. There is guidance on how to plan and carry out your campaign.
In the Teachers and Museums section you can find out more about how the model works and how your organisation can get involved.