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Leiden European City of Science

In 2022, Leiden was European City of Science. During this year, Leiden presented a public programme brimming with science, knowledge, arts, and skills for anyone with a curious mind. Leiden University Libraries (UBL) organised an extensive programme of activities on the theme of Leiden European City of Science 2022. Exhibitions, walks, blogs, podcasts, book salons and talk shows were made for the public, where objects from the Special Collections took centre stage.

Detail of the banner on the facade of the Leiden University Library for the thematic programme 'Leiden European City of Science'. It is an artistic adaptation of the manuscript in which Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) described his discovery of the rings of Saturn (1656-1683), HUG 5, fol. 50 verso.

Exhibition Books that made History

In 2022 we presented two exhibitions within the theme Leiden City of Science. On Wednesday 22 June, the exhibition Books that made History opened in the National Museum of Antiquities. For this exhibition, a selection of 25 books with a strong connection to the academic history of the city of Leiden were displayed, from the university's founding in 1575 to the present day. All books came from the UBL collections. The exhibition showed books that have had a lasting impact on science and culture, and which are still relevant to this day. The publication Boeken die geschiedenis schreven accompanied this exhibition.

Star map – ‘Platte globus op alle polushooghten seer siesntigh voor stuerlieden’ (1684)

Exhibition Maps that made History

The book Kaarten die geschiedenis schreven was published in the autumn of 2022. The publication is also available in English under the title Maps That Made History. Simultaneously, an exhibition was opened in  Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, where a wide variety of evocative maps from all over the world were displayed from the UBL collections. Different map traditions provided a view of the world from different perspectives. A map is always a simplification of reality: reduced, distorted, and selected. This allows the map image to be manipulated. The emphasis in the exhibition was on this use of maps as a means of power.

Kester Freriks guest writer

Nature writer Kester Freriks, also affiliated with NRC Handelsblad, was appointed as a guest writer at the UBL. Using special borders on old maps, Freriks and Martijn Storms, curator of Maps & Atlases, searched for  traces of these borders in cultural history and in the Dutch landscape. The results of the collaboration between writer and curator were described in the book Grensverkenningen. Langs oude grenzen in Nederland and published in June 2022.

Leiden press history

Together with Jaap de Jong, professor of Journalism and New Media at Leiden University, a research and education project was organised on Leiden press history. An online exhibition was made with students and a printed newspaper was published and distributed as an appendix of Leidsch Dagblad. In addition, the UBL organised a symposium and the annual P.J. Block lecture on 3 November.

Paul Ehrenfest, Paul junior and Albert Einstein in Leiden (1920)


At the end 2021, a Leiden themed issue of the magazine De Boekenwereld was published, this time devoted to 'Traveling scientists'. Various Leiden researchers and curators wrote articles about Middle Dutch manuscripts, Javanese travel stories, a botanist in the tropics, a sea voyage to the Indies, photos of the Snellius expedition and Leiden as a science centre for foreign visitors. In June 2022, another Leiden themed issue of the magazine was published, under the subtitle 'The role of the publisher in the production of knowledge'.

Drawing of plants from 'Het Amboinsche Kruidboek' (1741-1750) by Georg Everhard Rumphius (1627-1702)

Blogs and broadcasts

On the Leiden Special Collections Blog, curators and guest authors published a monthly blog entry on a topic related to Leiden City of Science. In addition, curators interviewed guests in the talk show Van kluis naar kussen, about the collections and their use in education and research. Recent book publications were discussed in the Book Salons, in which curators showed relevant objects from the Special Collections. Finally, Leiden researchers discussed science in a new series of UBLpodcasts, based on items from the Special Collections.

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Special collections

The UBL holds special collections of national and international importance. Much care is given to the preservation of this cultural heritage, as well as to its availability to students and researchers. By organizing thematic programmes such as 'Leiden City of Science' and previously the thematic programmes 'Beyond the content', 'Oppression and Freedom' and 'University and Student Life' – the use of the collections is stimulated in new ways.

Academiegebouw Universiteit Leiden (BI-B-FM-116-31)
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