Animals: Art, Science and Sound

Fri 21 Apr – Mon 28 Aug 2023
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Animals amaze, fascinate and delight us.

We’ve travelled across deserts and rainforests, deep into the oceans, and up in the skies to understand them. Now, in a major new exhibition, you can see how documenting the animal world has resulted in some of humankind’s most awe-inspiring art, science and sound recordings.

It can take years of research to unlock the secrets of a single species. Did you know that the first photograph of a live giant squid was published in 2005? That bats were first described as birds, and sharks referred to as dogs?

Follow this centuries-long journey through sound recordings, manuscripts and artworks, and learn some fun facts along the way.

The winding path of animal discovery has led to some amusing misunderstandings.

  • Read the first scientific description of a duck-billed platypus, once thought to be so bizarre it must be a hoax.
  • Learn why Europeans once thought birds of paradise lived in a constant state of flight and survived on dew and sunlight alone.
  • See the 16th-century drawing of a monkfish that looks like, well, a monk.

Yet it is the steadfast dedication of these naturalists, artists and sound recordists that allows us to hear the sound of extinct animals and marvel at the beauty of the most miniscule species. Experiences that remind us to treasure the natural world. 

  • Listen to the mournful song of the last living Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, recorded in 1983 and declared extinct in 2000.
  • Taken with a microscopic lens, wonder at the iridescent kaleidoscope of colours in Levon Biss’ photographs of beetles; a level of detail not otherwise visible to the naked eye. 

We all understand that recording animals is more vital than ever. Whether venturing far afield or simply stepping into your garden, get inspired to play your part in this enduring journey of discovery.  

Supported by



The American Trust for the British Library and The B.H. Breslauer Fund of the American Trust for the British Library


Heritage fund

Audio soundscapes created by Greg Green with support from the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project

Scientific advice provided by

ZSL logo


Name: Animals: Art, Science and Sound
Where: PACCAR 1
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Tickets available soon

A voluntary donation can be added over the regular ticket price. You will be helping the Library to conserve and share its collection. If you are a UK tax-payer and ‘Gift Aid’ your donation, the Library can reclaim the tax you have paid.

Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546