27 March 2015
More than 11,000 people visited the Bodleian's Weston Library for the opening weekend festivities on 21 and 22 March.
The newly renovated library opened to the public at 8am on Saturday 21 March following a three-year, £80m transformation by Wilkinson Eyre architects.
The first visitor to set foot through the library's new entrance on Broad Street was Oxford resident Clive Lindley-Jones, who was greeted by Bodley's Librarian Richard Ovenden and presented with a copy of the Marks of Genius exhibition catalogue.
Throughout the weekend, members of the public enjoyed visiting the new Marks of Genius exhibition, which features such treasures as Magna Carta and Shakespeare's First Folio. Visitors enjoyed the new Bodleian Café and browsed in The Zvi Meitar Bodleian Shop. Special events to mark the public opening proved popular; there were free talks about the building and its collections, and behind-the-scenes tours which sold out on both days.
'The whole experience was one of the most important and memorable in the Bodleian's history,' said Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian. 'The feedback has been uniformly ecstatic, from long-time Oxford residents for whom this was their first time in a University building, to regular readers and senior academics delighted to see such a successful transformation of the building and wonderful presentation of our collections.'
A jazz band and performances by choral singers added to the festive atmosphere inside Blackwell Hall, the building's 15-metre high atrium. The Bodleian's historic printing press was installed in the centre of the Hall, where visitors old and young tried their hand at printing a commemorative keepsake. Nearby Bodleian Libraries' specialist conservators provided an interesting presentation on book and paper conservation. Visitors were also able to view the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Worcestershire and a display about the history of the building.
When the New Bodleian Library was opened in 1946, the bells of All Saints church (now Lincoln College Library) were rung for a special peal to commemorate the event. So at 3pm on Saturday 21 March the Church bells were run again by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers to mark the re-opening of the New Bodleian as the Weston Library.
The Weston Library is now open daily to visitors. Marks of Genius: Masterpieces from the Collections of the Bodleian Libraries runs until 20 September 2015 and admission is free.
Top image credit: David Townshend