Exhibition Number 2: Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As We Know It – the British Library

Having worked at the British Library I do have a soft spot for their exhibitions and as such I know how long certain curators have wanted to present a science fiction exhibition.

I was intrigued as to how the Out Of This World exhibition was going to work, the PACCAR Gallery is vast in space and height and the last exhibition I saw, let me down in its build. This time, I was not let down.

The gallery, with its high ceilings and dark atmosphere was filled with the background sounds of strange moody noises to create a serene and separate space. Entering the gallery the first thing you come across is a flying saucer that has crash landed into a wall of books. These white walls are frequent throughout the exhibition creating separate areas for thematic purposes. Then eyes are drawn to a naked man (or alien) falling (or being sucked into) a lighted funnel, further over you could see a Tardis and a steam-punk replica of K9 and rising up above the cabinets, a tripod Martian from War of the Worlds.

Moving around in the space I could hear this robotic/computer generated voice talking and was intrigued. There sitting on a plinth was a little alien robot who looked asleep until you walked up to him and his eyes opened and he started to talk with the text showing on a screen on his belly. The exhibitions and digital technology teams did an amazing job on this and I can imagine children loving it.

Now, getting down to content. Did you know the Brontë sisters were amongst the first authors to write science fiction? No, me neither. Apparently in their youth, Anne, Emily, Charlotte and brother Bramwell created stories in alternative worlds of Angria and Gondal written in tiny 5” books with text so small it is only legible with a magnifying glass. More information on the Bronte sisters.

Other items of note included a first edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, an original score from Doctor Who, the first page of the War of the Triffids manuscript and letters from George Orwell to his publisher discussing the title of his latest piece...Nineteen Eighty Four.

Overall everything is spaced out quite nicely with quite a large quantity of first editions, manuscripts, ephemera and artwork. Cabinets were not over filled and there are enough to capture attention and perhaps remind someone of books they have read in times past. Information on the works was clear and explained what the piece was about as much as what it was reflecting.

Finally, one of the most fascinating and unexpected exhibits if you could call it that, is as you leave the gallery, you suddenly see yourself on a wall of mirrors similar to those found at a fair ground, and you realise that you were captured on video entering the gallery and now it is being played back before you. Now how the software knows when to play your clip is a mystery to me, perhaps its an alien at work.

Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As We Know It is free to enter and runs until September 25th 2011.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011 | 1 Comment

1 comment:

Eddy G. said...

I love exhibitions too; this one looks great.

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