Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

16 December 2022

Our highlights of the year

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re taking some time to look back at an incredible year here at the Library. Here’s eight of our favourite moments, all thanks to our users, staff, and community, locally and globally.

A literary treasure trove saved


This year we celebrated the acquisition of the incredible Blavatnik Honresfield Library. Formed in the second half of the 19th century, it’s a collection of manuscripts and printed books which includes exceptional material by the Brontës, Jane Austen, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

For the last 80 years, the collection has been owned privately, and was largely inaccessible. That is until the Friends of the National Libraries enabled it to be purchased for the nation, with its contents distributed between libraries and museums across the UK, including the British Library, accessible to all.

Earlier in December, we celebrated with the screening of a brand new film revealing the contents of the collection and the story of its acquisition. Don’t worry if you missed it – keep your eyes peeled on our social media channels early next year, when we’ll be releasing highlights for everyone to see. 

Lindisfarne Gospels at the Laing Art Gallery

Lindisfarne gospels

Long celebrated as the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England, the Lindisfarne Gospels – created c. 700 – represent a remarkable artistic achievement.

This year the Gospels featured in an exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, in the region of its island of origin. Newcastle City Library also put on a supporting exhibition, and venues across the North East hosted events inspired by the magnificent manuscript.

The exhibition has now ended, but you can still explore the Gospels for yourself online in our digitised version. If you find yourself yearning to learn more, you can grab The Lindisfarne Gospels: Art, History & Inspiration from our shop – one of our best-selling titles of 2022, written by curator Eleanor Jackson. 

The Lindisfarne Gospels will soon be back on display in our Treasures gallery.

Food Means Home

Food means home

Photo by Nicola Fox

For those newly arrived in the UK, adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings can feel daunting. With an idea to help comfort young people from around the world who now live in Leeds, we worked with a group of talented individuals to recreate some of their favourite dishes and share them in a new recipe book: Cooked with Love: World recipes without borders.

Cooked with Love was gifted to foster families at Leeds Civic Hall in November, as well as presented to His Majesty King Charles III when he visited the city.

‘Sharing in this way has opened a window into our young people’s lives before they arrived in the UK. We have all learned so much; from recipes to heart-warming stories from back home and life lessons for us all.’ – Louise Sidibe, Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children Lead for Leeds.


10th anniversary of the National Network

In November our Business & IP Centre (BIPC)’s National Network celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Partnering with local libraries across the UK, the National Network helps ideas grow into successful businesses through free resources, training and events. In the 10 years since its launch the National Network has:

  • partnered with 21 libraries around the UK
  • attracted over 185,000 people to events, workshops and webinars
  • helped create over 19,000 business and 12,000 jobs
  • supported more than 10,000 existing business
  • helped safeguard 4,000 existing businesses.

Find out more about how the BIPC can bring business inspiration and support to you.


Books Without Borders

Books without borders

This summer we hosted a special event to mark the launch of Books Without Borders – an initiative by the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, to print and distribute 16,000 books for newly arrived children and families displaced by the war.

Our Learning team welcomed 40 children and their families to our Learning Centre, leading a range of fun activities. But a surprise was in store. The First Lady joined on screen live from Kyiv to read an excerpt of Stories on the 14th Track, one of the many Ukrainian children’s books included in the Books Without Borders project.

‘Books not only entertain and educate us – they also unite us and bring us back to a feeling of home. This project is our victory on the cultural front, and it brings our primary victory closer.’ – First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska.


Green Libraries Manifesto

Back in July we launched the Green Libraries Manifesto – the next stage in stepping up the shared effort of libraries to tackle the climate emergency and protect our planet.

By signing the manifesto, libraries commit to a set of common principles: to put sustainability at the heart of their work and planning, to embrace innovation, to grow and share knowledge, and to support young people in becoming climate leaders. So far over 50 libraries have signed up to the commitments from across the UK and further afield in Mexico and Ghana.

We’re committed to working across the sector to help build a brighter climate future. That includes making changes to the way we work too.  Making improvements to our buildings to reduce our own carbon emissions, supporting colleagues to initiate sustainable change across the Library through a staff-led Sustainability Group, and supporting our users in researching and contributing to positive climate action.

Find out more about the Green Libraries Partnership.


Somers Town Festival

Somers town festival

In July our Piazza was once again host to the Somers Town Festival – Camden’s largest street party.

Local talent took to the stage, from Afro Beats/Cuban fusion musicians Lokkhi Terra, to Scottish folk singer-songwriter Stagg. Other celebrators included local humanist and mental health choirs, youth groups, storytellers, traditional dancers and, of course, a fantastic array of world foods, all from the Camden community.

Watch our video to get a taste of the Festival – and maybe we’ll see you there next year!

Last, but far from least - our exhibitions!

Exhibitions OneBL blog pic

We’ve had a brilliant run of exhibitions this year – not just in London, but in Leeds, across the UK, and across the globe as well.

Starting off in spring with Breaking the News, pop-up displays opened at 30 public libraries across the UK ahead of our main exhibition opening at St Pancras in April. It was our first major exhibition to spotlight the role that news plays in our society, including an original BBC radio script of the D-Day landings and the destroyed hard-drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s leaked files.

Gold opened in May, exploring how this precious metal has been used to embellish and enhance the written word across cultures, faiths and time. An exhibition celebrating the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, Chinese and British, followed in November, currently open alongside Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth: the first exhibition to traverse the rich history and storytelling surrounding one of the most famous figures of the ancient world.

At the Leeds Art Gallery, artist Jill McKnight explored how the people of Leeds have represented themselves over time in her exhibition Desire Lines, in collaboration with our collections. Living with Machines is currently open at Leeds City Museum until January, shedding fresh light on the Industrial Revolution and how advances in technology impacted the lives of ordinary people.

We’ve been globe-trotting too. Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole, an exhibition originally hosted in St Pancras in 2015, is currently open at Shanghai Library East, China. Our Chief Executive, Roly Keating, recently made the trip to Mumbai to open a wonderful co-curated exhibition, Early Photography and Archaeology in Western India, showcasing for the first time some of the rarest, earliest and most striking photographs and objects of India’s archaeological heritage.

We could go on – but it would take an entire blog post of itself! Check out what’s on if you’re interested in seeing our current exhibitions, and find out what we have planned for 2023.


Here’s to 50 years

As we approach 2023, we’re getting ready to celebrate 50 years of the British Library since we began operations in July 1973. A massive thank you to everyone who uses the Library and our collection in so many wonderful, creative ways, for making our 49th year, and all the years before that, so brilliant. Have a relaxing and safe Christmas, and a happy New Year!