When Handwritten closed at midnight last night – we extended opening hours for the last weekend – 73,000 visitors had passed through the Exhibition Gallery. This is a wonderful result and makes this the third most popular show ever at the National Library coming just after National Treasures (our second most visited exhibition) and after Treasures from the world’s great libraries (when we opened the doors almost 24 hours a day to accommodate over 100,000 people). An average of nearly 640 people per day saw Handwritten and commented very positively saying things like:
“A very moving exhibition – words fail to describe the awe I feel. Thank you with all my heart for bringing this to Canberra”
“Marvellous – an inspiration for humanity”
“One chance in a million to see these treasures. Thank you for all the painstaking work. A wonderful opportunity”
“Almost unbelievable – it is going to take me a while to fully process what I have just seen and reflect on its significance”
“A pure delight! Magnificent”
And we have many, many pages of similar comments from people all over Australia who specially came to see Handwritten or who commented through this special exhibition blog.
At 5pm yesterday the last copy of the exhibition catalogue was sold which points to an amazing piece of forecasting (or good luck!) as we printed 5,000 copies – which sold steadily from day one. The book will remain a wonderful window into the exhibition content and the riches of the Staatsbibliothek for centuries to come.
Media interest in the exhibition since day one has been amazing and the reviews very positive and thoughtful for an exhibition which did take a certain amount of diligence from the visitor to read and to digest what was being said, written in different languages and in wildly varying hands from the minuscule Marx to the wild Bolivar and the indecipherable Bismarck to the never satisfied Schopenhauer and Beethoven. The media coverage was extensive – from articles in the Qantas inflight magazine to feature pieces in The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers. The exhibition was also covered in The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Age, Australian Art Review, The Daily Telegraph, The Canberra Times, The West Australian and in regional newspapers Australia-wide. It was also covered in international publications, ranging from the Heathrow Airport magazine in London to the Philippines Star newspaper.
Handwritten also received widespread TV and radio coverage, including on ABC TV News in most capital cities, ABC News 24, Channel Nine and WIN TV and on most ABC radio stations from Darwin to Hobart as well as a one-hour special on ABC Radio National’s The Music Show and special German programs on SBS TV and radio. Interviews and news reports were also featured on 2UE and 2GB radio stations in Sydney which were syndicated Australia-wide.
There was significant radio coverage in Canberra, with regular stories and interviews on 666 ABC Radio as well as on all the Canberra commercial radio stations. The exhibition also featured prominently in social media and via websites such as Yahoo7 and NineMSN.
I must also mention the amazing events program running over the exhibition period. Numerous lectures and very widely appreciated concerts featuring music from the exhibition, were programmed along with films and talks culminating in the Enlighten Festival evening program. The Education program for kids was also well attended. We calculate that over 5,000 visitors took part in the program as part of Handwritten and no doubt will remember the exhibition very fondly via these inspiring and popular events – even a silent disco in the foyer!
I would like to particularly thank our remarkable colleagues at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin for their great support for this landmark library exhibition which shows, not just their extraordinary collection, but their great willingness to share it with the world. I thank the indefatigable collector Ludwig Darmstaedter who amassed his vast collection and donated it to the Staatsbibliothek in 1907. This generous act inspired my colleague Dr Gabriele Kaiser and others at the Staatsbibliothek to develop an exhibition referred to at the very beginning of this blog. Handwritten grew out of this 2008 project and the strength of friendships established over the past decade between those in Berlin and here at the NLA. I also heartily thank all my NLA colleagues who have made this exhibition a reality. It has been a huge effort but one that I’m sure they are all delighted to have been a part of.
Looking into the Exhibition Gallery with the pack up now in full swing I am beginning to miss the manuscripts already.