Prior to 2017, the Library exhibition space was originally used in a more corporate fashion; university events, networking events and lunch gatherings were popular within the Academic and University community. It hosted a lectern and chairs most of the time – very formal and most of the time pretty empty.
In order to prepare for the exhibitions to come we needed to meet a higher level of security requirements. The space had additional security installed over its windows and doors to ensure it became a secure space and the lectern unofficially retired to the back closet.
In January 2017 we hosted Lines of Thought from the British Museum, drawings from Michelangelo to now.
It drew the largest crowd we had ever seen! Everyone wanted to be part of the buzz of City of Culture and we excitedly scanned tickets and ordered some barriers to manage the queues which were rapidly forming.
There were also workshops to engage students in drawing their own pieces, coordinated by Heidi Wigmore.
The end of February saw the end of Lines of Thought. The newly erected walls in the center of the room were pulled down and the decorators intensively patched and repainted the space to its former glory. The floor underwent an intensive clean – after so many visitors (approx. 20,000) it hosted track marks where people had walked through the space – like an unofficial directional route.
The exhibition was a huge success for the Library. The first we had supported from an operational perspective, helping host invigilators, Art History student volunteers, City of Culture volunteers, manage ticket sales and queues. It was eye opening to what the space now was and could continue to be for the future of our cultural program.
Following lines of thought we hosted Paul Smith to J.K. Rowling: BP Portrait Award commissions from the National Portrait Gallery, 29th March to 11th June 2017. The works were all commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery as part of the first prize of the BP Portrait Award.
We were all stunned by the realism of these paintings, they were truly real to life and showed so much expression. Having Sir Ian McKellen stare directly back at you was an experience. The paintings themselves were absolutely huge too, a juxtaposition of the Michelangelo we had previously exhibited.
It was sad to see the exhibition move out in June. Despite the luxury of being able to visit the space often, there was always something new which had you captured each time. It was one of my favorites to walk through.
Our next exhibition, Phillip Larkin: New Eyes Each Year was our first immersive experience curated by Anna Farthing from 12th July – Oct 2017. Book shelves wound around the space showcasing artifacts from Larkin alongside his doodles.
Yes, that is right ties from the ceiling and a lawnmower on the wall. There was many a health and safety conversation about that one! The space was full to the brim with Larkin’s personal possessions – he was certainly a collector. Larkin was the University Librarian at the University of Hull from 1955-1985 and so this one felt close to home for us. It was a rare opportunity to see the man behind the poetry and we offered tours of his library office and showcased his works kept at the Hull History Centre archives alongside. Visitors commented how the whole experience felt very ‘Library’, the atmosphere which was created encouraged people to sit and spend time within the space – you often saw someone perched on the bench just taking some time.
During de-installation, the Library, Hull History Centre and the Larkin Society got to keep many of the artifacts for safe keeping. Larkin’s doodle from this exhibition found a much loved home in the Reading Room next to the Spotlight display.
The 20th October to 26th November 2017 saw us host An Eyeful of Wry, works from the UK Government Art Collection. It was very much centered around humor and it certainly raised a smile within the Library.
Students absolutely loved this exhibition! I think mainly because each day we placed a set of joke posters in the space and the students focused on collecting them all to decorate their dorm rooms.
The musical piano resembling something from the In the Night Garden’s Ninky Nonk played a tune triggered by the push of a big red button. It was loved by some, hated by others – most Library staff being the latter as you often left work humming along to the tune.
We rounded our City of Culture year with Painting Power: The Art of Terence Cuneo from the Science Museum Group, curator Ian Blatchford and National Railway Museum’s curator Andrew McLean – December through to April 2018. It featured railway paintings, industrial power alongside sovereign and state. It intrigued many that Cuneo painted a mouse into his works and lead to a spot the most mice competition for anyone working within the space. His works were so detailed it often took some time or multiple attempts to find them.
In wrapping up our City of Culture exhibits we had played host to hundreds of volunteers who had all dedicated time to the Library to ensure our loaned collections were safe and to engage with our visitors. They all helped shape our experience within this cultural programme and we wanted to make sure we gave them something back. We hosted a volunteer event up on the 7th floor to celebrate our year and to plan for our future in hosting further exhibitions at the Library.
The Library has continued to host exhibits within its spaces collaborating with the Science Festival, the University Spaces of Sanctuary group, individual curators such as DJ Roberts with another exciting nod to Larkin. Most recently we have hosted Peter Huby, Hull and Back and continue to build an exciting program into 2023 and beyond.
The current Art collection, any visiting exhibitions and opening times can all be found advertised through the Library webpage.