Current and upcoming exhibitions

Current exhibitions

Image of Turis Babel Kirchner tower in black and white

Babel: adventures in translation

15 February - 2 June 2019

ST Lee Gallery, Weston Library

Babel: Adventures in Translation takes visitors beyond the ancient myth of the Tower of Babel and society's quest for a universal language to explore the ubiquity and power of translation in the movement of ideas, stories and cultural practices around the world.

Through a stunning selection of objects ranging from a second century papyrus book and illuminated manuscripts to animal stories, religious books and a bilingual road sign, Babel explodes the notion that translation is merely about word-for-word rendering into another language, or that it is obsolete in the era of global English and Google Translate. Treasures from the Bodleian Libraries' collections, both ancient and modern, illustrate how stories have travelled across time, territory, language and medium.

Highlights on show include a 4000-year-old bowl inscribed with a language that still resists deciphering, an unpublished Tolkien notebook revealing how he experimented with Esperanto before creating his fictional Elvish languages, and an experimental 1950s computer programme designed to generate love letters. Exploring themes of multiculturalism and identity, the exhibition considers issues that are more relevant than ever as Britain approaches Brexit. It also tackles the tricky question of how to translate for the distant future. 

Current displays

Black and white image of cupid - Vet.F1 c.87 

Love and the soul

5 January - 10 March 2019

Proscholium, Bodleian Library

This display will explore the rich inspiration that the delightful second-century Latin love-story of Cupid and Psyche by Apuleius has provided for book-illustrators since the invention of printing – above all for William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

 Text that reads

British comics frame by frame

23 February - 28 April 2019

Blackwell Hall, Weston Library

Join us to explore the evolution of the British comic, from graphic images of apocalypse in medieval block books to the anarchy of V for Vendetta and the inventiveness of indie comics today.

 Upcoming exhibitions

3D sidebar

Thinking 3D: Leonardo to the present

21 March 2019 — 9 February 2020

Treasury, Weston Library

For centuries, artists and scientists have wrestled with how to convey three-dimensional objects on the page. Using some of the Bodleian Libraries’ finest books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, Thinking 3D tells the story of the development of three-dimensional communication over the last 500 years.

The exhibition shows how new techniques, developed from the Renaissance onwards, revolutionized the way that ideas in the fields of anatomy, architecture, astronomy and geometry were relayed and ultimately how this has influenced how we perceive the world today. Timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition shows how Leonardo and his contemporaries made great strides in the realistic depiction of 3D forms.

Thinking 3D explores technological advances up to the present day including 3D modelling, photography and stereoscopy; and also highlights the works of modern practitioners and researchers in Oxford. The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of smaller exhibitions and events across Oxford in 2019 as part of the Thinking 3D research project.

 Photograph of the Jain map

Talking Maps

5 July 2019 - 8 March 2020

ST Lee Gallery, Weston Library

Every map tells a story. Talking Maps is a celebration of maps and what they tell us about the places they depict and the people that make and use them.

Drawing on the Bodleian's unparalleled collection of more than 1.3 million maps, this exhibition brings together an extraordinary selection of ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps from a range of cultures and in a variety of formats as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps.

Talking Maps explores how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are.


 Upcoming displays

Sketch of Stonehenge 

A story in stone and bone

16 March 2019 - 12 May 2019

Proscholium, Bodleian Library

Brought to life through the writing and drawings of the antiquaries John Aubrey and William Stukeley, the story of Stonehenge continues to unfold today through recent developments in archaeological science.

 A sketch of a stone head

Oxford's stone heads: history and mysteries

4 May — 21 July 2019

Blackwell Hall, Weston Library

350 years of heritage explored through three generations of Broad Street’s famous sculptures. Follow their journeys and discover the myths behind their identities. Understand how heritage science contributes to unravelling their past and conserving stone for the future.

 Illustration of sheets of paper with writing and drawings in a pile on the floor

White Rose: Writing and Resistance

18 May — 7 July 2019

, Bodleian Library

In the early 1940s, five students and their professor secretly wrote and distributed leaflets calling on Germans to resist Hitler. This display explores how the White Rose Resistance used the political power of the written word.

 Illustration of the moon and a lake, and musical notes

We Look to the Moon

13 July — 15 September 2019

, Bodleian Library

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first crewed mission to land on the Moon (20 July 1969). Come and explore humanity’s study of, and fascination with, all things lunar.

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