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Library exhibitions, both online and physical, give an idea of the breadth of our collections.

Naxi Dongba manuscript

The world’s last picture writing: Naxi Dongba manuscripts

Manuscripts that look like a comic book, that's how you could describe the manuscripts of the Dongba people from China. The manuscripts are one of the last examples of a so-called pictographic script that can only be interpreted by Dongba priests, shamans, who have knowledge of the ancient Dongba culture.

The Leiden University Libraries (UBL) holds a collection of 33 manuscripts that record the customs, religious practices, and life of the Naxi people living in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. Written in pictographic script, Naxi literature consists almost exclusively of ritual texts. Also referred to as Dongba script, it is only intelligible to Dongba priests with a deep understanding of Naxi ancestral culture. The online exhibition gives an impression of the manuscripts, the way in which they should be read and the research that is being done in China into this culture.

View the online exhibition.

Admired and Despised: life and work of Snouck Hurgronje

Admired and Despised: life and work of Snouck Hurgronje

Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936) is known as an Islamologist, author of the book Mecca, administrator in the Dutch East Indies for the Dutch government and professor in Leiden. Wim van den Doel published a biography of Snouck Hurgronje in 2021. Recently, the translation of the biography in Bahasa Indonesia was released for the Indonesian public. Van den Doel created an online exhibition to mark the occasion, with a focus on Snouck's time in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.

View the online exhibition in English, Dutch or Bahasa Indonesia.

Atlas of Ukraine and Adjoining Countries. Map 11 Nationalities and Religions, Lviv 1937. COLL.S/T K.213

Borderlands: Ukraine in historical maps

This online exhibition intends to demonstrate that Ukraine has been a most fertile but embattled 'borderland' between steppe and forest, between Polish Catholicism and Tatar Islam, and a unique nation between East and West. Moreover, the territory of the current Republic of Ukraine -or large portions of it- formed part of other empires for centuries, like the Russian Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire. This exhibition highlights maps related to 'forerunners' of an independent Ukraine, such as medieval Kyivan Rus', the Orthodox Cossack Hetmanate from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and the 'Ukrainian People's Republic' between 1918 and 1920. Thirty maps on the history of the second-largest country in Europe are presented in six paragraphs. Each paragraph starts with several maps with corresponding captions and finishes with a short commentary that hopefully sheds some light on the present war between Russia and Ukraine. The maps are selected from some six hundred maps and plans on Ukraine in the Bodel Nijenhuis and the Steegh/Teunissen Collections of Leiden University Libraries.

View the online exhibition


Rembrandt and Leiden University

Rembrandt van Rijn is inextricably linked to the city of Leiden: he was born and went to school there, and in Leiden he started his career as one of the greatest painters in Dutch history. There is a similar connection between Rembrandt and Leiden University. He matriculated on 20 May 1620 as a student of literature and remained so until at least 1622. Rembrandt’s matriculation is kept at Leiden University Library, along with countless other sources on his life and work, and a collection of etchings by Rembrandt and works by childhood friends and other contemporaries.

This online exhibition presents a selection from the collections of Leiden University - sources, documents, etchings and drawings by and about Rembrandt and his contemporaries. Not only to provide insight into Rembrandt's time in Leiden, from his birth in 1606 to his departure for Amsterdam in 1631, but also as access to the rich Rembrandt collection at Leiden University Library.

View the online exhibition

Portret van Hugo de Groot uit de Leidse Bijzondere Collecties.

Grotius : a Life Between Freedom and Oppression

In 2021, it is exactly 400 years since Hugo Grotius mounted his daring escape from Loevestein Castle, hidden in his book chest. Although his escape is a widely known event, especially in the Netherlands, the man behind the story and the reasons behind his imprisonment are often overlooked. In this small online exhibition, nine students from Leiden University College The Hague introduce the general public to the person Hugo Grotius through a selection of books, prints, maps and letters from the Leiden University Libraries’ (UBL) Special Collections.

View the online exhibition

Images of the Indonesian War of Independence

Images of the Indonesian War of Independence, 1945-1949

The exhibition Images of the Indonesian War of Independence, 1945-1949, is the result of a collaboration between the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and Leiden University Libraries (UBL). The exhibition shows a selection of material from the Special Collections of the UBL, including much material from the collections of the KITLV-KNAW. The exhibition presents a wide variety of sources, from posters and drawings to photography, and from personal testimonies on paper or in interviews to official documents from both the Indonesians and the Dutch.

View the online exhibition (Indonesian) 
View the online exhibition (English)

Collections on Tour

Manuscripts, printed books and other materials of the Special Collections are regularly lend out for display at exhibitions in museums worldwide. Through social media we will keep you posted. Follow us on twitter and facebook.

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