Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

30 January 2024

Your Library this year

We have a wonderfully varied line-up of fascinating exhibitions and programmes coming to St Pancras, and your local libraries as well, this year. Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect to see coming up at the Library in 2024. 


Beyond the Bassline (26 April – 26 August 2024) 

Beyond the Bassline image

Beyond the Bassline is the first major exhibition to document 500 years of Black music in Britain, from Tudor musician John Blanke and 19th century composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor through to Pauline Black, the founding member and lead singer of Two-Tone band The Selecter, roots reggae band Steel Pulse and award-winning contemporary record producer and DJ, Nia Archives. 

Spotlighting The Reno in Manchester, Bristol’s Bamboo Club, Scottish club night The Reggae Klub and The Four Aces in London, as well as carnivals, community centres and record shops across the country, the exhibition draws on different places that have cultivated creative expression and inspired a number of Black British music genres. Journeying through jazz, reggae, jungle and afroswing, it also examines the role the internet and new technologies play in creating, listening to and sharing music. 

On display will be a range of sound recording formats, instruments and audio equipment alongside posters, costumes and photographs celebrating music as a form of entertainment, vehicle for community, and as a source of liberation, protest and education. 

Tickets will be on sale soon.


Medieval Women: In Their Own Words (25 October 2024 – 2 March 2025) 

Later this year, our exhibition on Medieval Women will explore the challenges, achievements and daily lives of women in Europe from 1100-1500. It will tell the history of medieval women through their own words and uncover their lives through original documents and artefacts.  

Women’s lives during the Middle Ages were rich and varied. The exhibition will reveal that women exerted great influence across private, public and spiritual realms. It will delve into the lived experiences of medieval women, including their beauty regimes and healthcare, their personal relationships and the running of their homes. It will shed light on their work in a wide variety of trades and professions, their role in medieval politics, the power and influence they wielded as spiritual visionaries or nuns, and the art, music and literature that they created. 

Visitors will discover objects related to inspiring figures such as: Joan of Arc, the religious visionary and military leader; Christine de Pizan, the first professional woman author in Europe; and Shajar Al-Durr, the female ruler of Egypt who defeated Louis IX of France in the Seventh Crusade. 

The exhibition will take visitors on a journey through the lives of medieval women across cultures, religions and class. Exploring both their struggles and successes, the exhibition prompts visitors to discover how medieval women’s voices still resonate across the centuries and speak powerfully to our world today. 

This exhibition is made possible with support from Joanna and Graham Barker and Unwin Charitable Trust.


The Silk Road at Dunhuang (27 September 2024 – 23 February 2025) 

Featuring items from the so-called ‘Library Cave’ in the Buddhist caves complex of Mogao, this exhibition explores the stories of the people who inhabited or passed through the town of Dunhuang in northwest China, a vital resting point along the trading routes known as the Silk Roads.   

Sealed in the early 11th century and only rediscovered in 1900, the contents of the ‘Library Cave’ span the 4th to the 11th centuries. From the Diamond Sutra, the world’s earliest dated, printed book, to the Dunhuang star chart, the earliest known manuscript atlas of the night sky, the documents are an astonishing time capsule detailing life in and around the medieval metropolis of Dunhuang. 

This exhibition is made possible with support from The Klein Foundation and the Dunhuang Foundation.


Get Creative in Leeds 

Leeds Get Creative summer celebration 2023 - low res (65)

We’re continuing to share stories in Yorkshire - expect oral history, Shakespeare and spooky fun later this year. In February, young people in south Leeds will continue to make their mark in our community programme, Get Creative. Our free weekly art sessions help young people aged 10–14 engage with the Library collection and find their voice. This is the second year of the project and it’s just one of the ways we’re getting to know the people of Leeds, where we hope to build a new home in years to come. 


Luminous: A thousand years of Hebrew manuscripts (in Melbourne, Australia until 14 April 2024)

We've partnered with State Library Victoria in Melbourne, Australia to create Luminous: A thousand years of Hebrew manuscripts. This exhibition explores the significance of the written word as a foundation for contemporary Jewish practice, showing ancient manuscripts as part of a dynamic and diverse living culture.

Spanning a millennium of history, Luminous illustrates the beauty and importance of Hebrew texts through items about Jewish life, culture, science, religion, philosophy, music and magic.

The exhibition provides access to rare and significant manuscripts that explore the significance of the written word as a foundation of Jewish culture and tradition, centering the lived experience of Australian Jews here and now.

Find out more