Tolkien MeMes #2. Exhibiting Tolkien at Berlin’s State & Central Library, Nov 2012 – February 2013
In Februar 2012 the then secretary of the German Tolkien Society (GTS) received an email from the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB):
ich arbeite in der Zentral– und Landesbibliothek Berlin und bin für Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen verantwortlich.
Wie komme ich an Lesungen oder Ausstellungen zum Hobbit oder Herr der Ringe ran?
Könnt Ihr mir da helfen?
A rather rough translation would be:
Dear Tolkien fans,
I am responsible for exhibitions and events with Berlin’s State & Central Library.
Would it be possible to have readings or exhibitions on the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings?
Could you help me out?
We sure could, with the then manager of the GTS – me 🙂 – having recently moved to Berlin. The ZLB is the largest public library in Germany and is divided into two locations because of the former division of Berlin, one in the east, one in the west of the city. The lady in question who had sent the email was situated with the Berliner Stadtbibliothek in the east, only a five minutes walk away from some of the capital’s most spectacular landmarks like the Cathedral.
[At the entrance to Berlin’s State & Central Library a typographer went nuts and offered his version of the letter ‘A’ in supposedly all of mankind’s history.]
Over the course of the next few months it became clear that she
- had a small budget we could use for the vernissage and finissage of the event and for the production of publicity material and
- she was willing to pester a lot of people to have a really nice exhibition, small as it may have been.
A good friend of mine happens to be a fashion designer with a huge heart for cosplaying. He was working on some Valar and Valier costumes at the time and he allowed us to use some of his work which added a nice touch to the exhibition. The glass cabinets were filled with items from my personal collection, every single one of them topical (Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Father Christmas Letters etc.)
[Costume suggestion for Ulmo.]
The exhibition started on November 29th, 2012 and was set to finish on Februar 1st, 2013 but received an extension until the 22nd. There was another event on December 6th, with me reading letters from Father Christmas and the finissage with a talk by German Tolkien expert Lisa Kuppler (who also happens to be an ace editor, particularly for crime novels.)
As we titled the exhibition “Fantastic books and illustrations by J.R.R. Tolkien” I tried to use mostly illustrated editions, comics, art publications etc. to show how much Tolkien had going for him when it came to being an illustrator.
It was huge fun and thanks to everyone involved we had a lovely exhibition in one of the largest libraries in Germany, not only in the foyer, but also in the upstairs anteroom to the lecture hall.
Unfortunately, due to restructuring efforts in the State & Central Library exhibitions like this – very much fan-based and with the support of a dedicated curator with a budget – will not happen again as both the position and the funding have been withdrawn. Quite a pity as the library boasted at least four to five wonderful exhibitions a year on a wide range of topics and it always made this place of learning something very special.