2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday July 25, 2017

Visit 10 of the world’s most amazing libraries without leaving Paris!

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What is the future for libraries? Our second best contributing institution with more than 2 millions objects from their collections available on Europeana, the National Library of France is actively working on the digitization on their collections. Their current exhibition merging heritage with technological advancements pays tribute to the social aspect of libraries around the world.

An immersive journey

Inspired by the book of the same name by Alberto Manguel, ‘La Bibliothèque, la nuit’ (literally, ‘the library at night’) is an immersive exhibition which was initially presented in 2015 in Quebec by stage director Robert Lepage and his production company Ex Machina. It is currently being hosted by the National Library of France, where visitors can discover ten of the world’s most amazing libraries thanks to virtual reality. These buildings are beautiful and they also all have a story to tell. They have been selected individually for their poetic and dramaturgic potential. For each of them, a five-minute sequence was filmed in 360 degrees, unveiling some of the unique stories of the archives: the viewer can step inside these legendary buildings, learn about their past, and explore places that they might not be able to physically visit.

Alberto Manguel - Robert Lepage / Ex Machina, Une exposition conçue et réalisée par Ex Machina, d’après une idée originale de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Stéphane Bourgeois

From Sarajevo to Ottawa to the Nautilus

From the National Library of France, you can explore the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve in Paris (which is actually open at night!) and wander among the Admont Abbey Library in Austria, the world’s largest monastic library known for its Baroque architecture, before heading to Sarajevo’s national library, hosted in the historic City Hall which recently reopened 22 years after it was destroyed during the Bosnian War. Visitors can also discover Copenhagen University Library, the oldest library in Denmark, which is still open to the public although books can’t be borrowed or viewed anymore.

And this ambitious journey goes way beyond Europe. In America, it takes people to the Library of Congress, which is the largest library of the world, the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, mostly home to legal texts; and Mexico City's Biblioteca Vasconcelos, also known as ‘Megabiblioteca’. The exhibition also recreates the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt, the Buddhist library in Hase-dera temple in Japan, preserving Buddha's teachings in the form of booklets, and even the Nautilus Library, inspired by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, which contains 12,000 works of science and literature in a multitude of languages.

Alberto Manguel - Robert Lepage / Ex Machina, Une exposition conçue et réalisée par Ex Machina, d’après une idée originale de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Stéphane Bourgeois

Shaping the future for libraries and archives

At the National Library of France, the exhibition has been enriched with treasures from the library’s collection, giving a tangible introduction to the experience. While this virtual reality immersion focuses on the imaginary potential of libraries, whether real or imagined, with an invitation to travel across time and space, it also demonstrates the possibilities for institutions to share their collections in innovative ways, get greater exposure, and further engage with audiences anywhere in the world.

Has your institution been working on similar projects? We would love to hear the outcome!

You can visit the exhibition at the National Library of France from now until 13 August.

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