March 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Bodleian Makeover

On March 21 Oxford University opened the doors of the Weston Library, fresh from an £80-million makeover. Formerly known as the "New Bodleian," the newly dubbed Weston Library includes several exhibition halls where treasures from the Bodleian collections will be on public display.

The three-year renovation project was led by architect Jim Eyre, who radically redesigned the building originally constructed in the 1930s. The New Bodleian was commandeered for war use during WWII before it could be opened to the public, delaying its official opening until 1946. It then served in a dual role as a space for readers and a storage site for some 3.5 million volumes in the Oxford collections.

The renovations include state-of-the-art storage for Bodleian special collections, new spaces for academic research, including three reading rooms, a digital media center, a new Visiting Scholar Center, new public exhibition spaces, a shop, and a cafe.

Michael Suarez, professor of English at the University of Virginia and director of Rare Book School, is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian. He said of the renovations, "Now at last the Bodleian Libraries has a state-of-the-art facility commensurate with its world-class research collections. Working at the Weston nearly every day, I can say from experience that it is a marvelous place, a fantastic scholarly resource. Scholars from around the globe will benefit tremendously from this thoroughgoing renovation for generations to come."

The opening exhibition in the new library is called "Marks of Genius," which "looks at ways in which common attitudes towards genius are manifested in the physical form of a number of remarkable books and manuscripts, and considering the relationship between genius and learning, it explores ways in which the works of genius found in a university library can be acquired, collected and read." Highlights include the Magna Carta and the original dust jacket design for The Hobbit.

[Images from the Bodleian Libraries]