Living Knowledge blog

2 posts from December 2021

09 December 2021

Taking your favourite exhibitions around the world

What do Paddington, Harry Potter and miniature books have in common? They’re all the subject of exhibitions that have gone on to tour following runs here at our site in St Pancras. After the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic our touring programme has gathered strength and we now have three exhibitions on the road in the UK and Japan.

Our much-loved exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, will soon open at Tokyo Station Gallery following its recent run at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe. The exhibition is our most successful to date having been seen by 156,000 visitors in London in 2017 and we’re thrilled to show it in Japan, following its popular tour to the New-York Historical Society in 2018.

The exhibition takes visitors on a magical journey to the heart of the Harry Potter stories and features original material by J K Rowling, alongside artwork from the books and our own treasures.

Harry potter exhibition500

A new chapter for Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Not every object from an original exhibition held at the Library can travel due to fragility or light exposure limits, so we often have to select alternative objects from our collection and elsewhere. As Japanese audiences love fine art we borrowed a number of pre-Raphaelite oil paintings from UK museum collections for the latest tour of Harry Potter: A History of Magic.


The Horniman Museum’s Japanese Merman, which delighted audiences in London and New York, was replaced by a similar mummy from a Japanese temple. And we also added material that told the publishing story of Harry Potter in Japan.


Initially due to open in 2020, the exhibition would have marked the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Japan, however, the global pandemic led to a one year delay and a complete rethink by our Exhibitions team on how to tour exhibitions in uncertain times.

How do you install an exhibition abroad during a pandemic?

The exhibition had to be installed virtually due to COVID-19 travel restrictions which required a great deal of planning. An online book-strapping and object-handling workshop was led by our Conservation team and illustrated packing and mounting notes were provided to ensure easy understanding on arrival.

In Kobe the installation took place over six days with virtually supervised objects being installed between 7am and 1pm and overseen by exhibitions, curatorial and conservation staff. The Japanese conservators worked long days but always with the utmost care for the collection. Amazingly very few issues were encountered during the installation despite the time difference, language barrier and working on screens!

A marmalade-loving bear goes on a new adventure

This season has also seen our incredibly popular Paddington: The Story of a Bear exhibition begin its travels (although sadly not to Peru). After its run this year in St Pancras – supported by our travel partner GWR and the Unwin Charitable Trust – it will appear in four venues around the UK, starting at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle. A particularly fitting inaugural destination for the tour, as it is home to the World Original Marmalade Awards!

We’ve already had lots of fun with Paddington this year, particularly at our Family Day in Leeds. The open air stage at Slung Low this summer saw storyteller Richard O’Neill imagining Paddington visiting Leeds and was followed by a version of the Lost Property Library, a project that we’ve been working on with Wrongsemble that encourages families to get involved with the performances.   

This interactive storytelling adventure continues in the exhibition at Tullie House, where they’re creating a story lab which guides visitors through creating their own Paddington-inspired tales. Like the exhibition at the Library, there’ll be plenty to see, with first editions of the books, original illustrations, and stories on the origins of Paddington.

Paddington exhibition view

Taking our treasures to you

We’re also working with museums and galleries across the UK through our Treasures on Tour programme. We’re opening up our collections by lending important works to all areas of the country so people can enjoy them closer to home, often in the towns and cities where they were originally discovered or created. One such loan that opened this autumn, is a display of the Bodmin Gospels and Cornish Passion Poem manuscripts, which have travelled to Kresen Kernow in their home county of Cornwall.

Treasures on tour2

Further north, our Miniature Books exhibition recently opened at Newcastle City Library. Inspired by the tiny books the Brontë family created for their toys, this exhibition features miniature books and manuscripts from our historical and contemporary collections. They sit alongside the smallest of books made by children in lockdown last year as part of a project run by our Learning team, who worked with famous children’s authors – including Viviane Schwarz and Joseph Coelho – to share their own mini creations.

The tour is in partnership with Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, who have added items from their own collection to complement the original display. And to keep building our National Library of Miniature Books, local primary schools in Newcastle will also create their own tiny books for the exhibition.

Coming to a venue near you

So, fear not. If you can’t make it to one of our must-see exhibitions in London, you might just find it in a museum, gallery or library near you in the not too distant future. Look out for updates in our emails, on our social media channels or wherever you get your local news.


Our Treasures on Tour programme is generously supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust.

The Miniature Books exhibition is supported by the Brian Mitchell Charitable Settlement.

The Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition was developed in collaboration with The Blair Partnership and Paddington: The Story of A Bear has been created in partnership with Copyrights Group.

07 December 2021

Library Lives: Rebecca Binnington, Hull

‘The most unusual enquiry I’ve ever dealt with? “What do I feed a peacock?”’

We continue our celebration of UK librarians with Rebecca Binnington, Enterprise and IP Librarian for BIPC Humber Partnership’s regional Centre, BIPC Hull, with Hull Libraries. The BIPC is one of 19 around the UK which can help you imagine, start or develop your business.

Rebecca BinningtonRebecca Binnington

Where was your local library growing up?

Coalville Library in Leicestershire. It was always a lovely space to browse and read in.

Why did you want to become a librarian?

Hmmm, is this where I admit I didn’t? I was quite adamant I would not be a librarian. After completing my professional qualification at Aberystwyth University, which was a Joint Honours including Library and Information Studies, I meant to go into research or teaching but I needed a break so I took a year to think things through. A Library Assistant role became available in Leicestershire Libraries and as I had the qualification, I went for, and got, the job. From there I went for a librarian’s post and discovered I loved working with the public and local communities: the variety of skills and work on a daily basis was (and still is) incredibly engaging. I’ve not looked back and have worked across many varied areas in public libraries, including prison libraries.

What does your current job involve?

I work across the public library network in Hull. Officially my title is Enterprise and IP Librarian but I’m involved in project work, stock management, business support and community engagement across all ages. A typical day might be organising an event, talking to a customer about applying for a trademark, deciding how best to manage the materials we have in the library and those we have hidden from view in our closed stacks, talking to customers about the books they’ve chosen and what else they might like to read, purchasing stock and visiting schools to promote our services. It’s a very varied job, I’ve probably only covered a fraction of what I actually do…

Do you have a favourite item in your library’s collection?

Ongoing series_Lloyds Registers  Hull
Lloyd's Registers

We have Lloyd’s Registers dating back from 1764. I find them fascinating because Hull was, and still is, a maritime city. I think it’s very apt that we hold shipping registers for a city where the estuary and the sea have been so vital to its cultural development and economic history.

What is the most unusual enquiry you have helped someone with?

To this day it’s one of the first enquiries I got: ‘What do I feed a peacock?’ I was completely flummoxed initially…

What's your favourite thing you can find or do in a library?

I could provide a very long list! I do particularly enjoy working with partners and artists to organise and deliver events. It’s wonderful and challenging working with others but when something is successful you’re able to take a step back and value the time and effort that has built something for the local community to enjoy.

Other than your own, where's your favourite library, or one you would most like to visit?

John Rylands library in Manchester. The building and stock are glorious.

Sum up being a librarian in three words

Different, challenging, fulfilling.

What do you think makes a good librarian?

Someone who’s able to adapt; someone who can engage; someone who can work successfully with others and be passionate about libraries as safe spaces for every member of their local community.

Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with your job

I am a somewhat dishevelled silversmith (though I might be using that term loosely). I’m self-taught and enjoy the designing, problem solving and knowledge that ‘I made this’.

Ongoing Series_RBinnington_frazzled jeweller       Ongoing series_jewellery example

What one thing do you wish people knew about being a librarian that you suspect they don’t?

I don’t get to read any books whilst doing the day job (during working hours – I read a lot in my own time).

Favourite fictional librarian

Evie from The Mummy. Whenever I watch the film and she shouts out ‘I… am a librarian’, I shout ‘hurrah!’

Book recommendation?

There are too many! I’ll settle on two authors. Anything by N K Jemisin or Brandon Sanderson: sometimes there are writers that come along to genres like fantasy and science fiction and re-write the playbook.

Interview by Ellen Morgan

Rebecca Binnington is Enterprise and IP Librarian for BIPC Humber Partnership’s regional Centre, BIPC Hull, with Hull Libraries. The BIPC is one of 19 around the UK which can help you imagine, start or develop your business.

We’re interviewing people who have professional registration status as a librarian via the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals or who have an academic qualification such as a first degree, a postgraduate diploma or a Master’s degree in library and information studies or librarianship.

Is this you? If you’d like to feature in Library Lives, get in touch with

Would you like this to be you? Find out more about becoming a librarian on the CILIP website.