50 years of the British Library

British Library 50 years logo. A red number 50 with the British Library logo in the 0.

50 years ago the British Library burst into life, and we haven’t stopped moving since.

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For half a century we’ve cared for the UK’s research collection. A living, breathing collection that grows every day, along with the knowledge it fuels, the ideas it sparks and the people it empowers.

So this summer, we’re celebrating our 50th year with a season of special events and new exhibitions, including, for the first time, pay what you can days. And we’re reflecting on the role we play as the UK’s national library and the collaborations which have made us what we are today.

Our birthday events

You can’t have a 50th birthday without a party! On Saturday 8 July come and explore, discover and celebrate with us from 11.00 – 17.00. Join us for a day of tours, workshops and talks that will take you on a journey through the heart of the Library.

Book here.

We have even more events throughout July to celebrate turning 50, including a showcase of some of the most precious items we’ve acquired over the past five years, with tickets costing as little as £1.

View our list of anniversary events.

Pay what you can

We’re inviting you to pay what you can when you visit our major exhibition Animals: Art, Science and Sound. We want to make sure everyone who wants to is able to enjoy the exhibition, so you can pay as much or as little as you like on these days:

  • Sunday 2 July
  • Saturday 8 July
  • Tuesday 25 July
  • Sunday 30 July
  • Thursday 3 August
  • Tuesday 8 August
  • Sunday 13 August.

There will be a limited number of tickets available at the Library on the day so we’d strongly advise pre-booking to avoid disappointment. Simply add the tickets to your basket for your chosen date and select the amount you’d like to pay (minimum £1) when you check out.

See for yourself how documenting the animal world has resulted in some of humankind’s most awe-inspiring art, science and sound recordings.

Book here.

A new way of telling tales

How has technology transformed the way we tell stories?

Our newest exhibition, Digital Storytelling, is opening. Jump into brave new worlds with some of the best examples of experimental narratives: escape from zombies, travel with Phileas Fogg, hear about modern tragedies first-hand and discover poetry written using the weather.

Whether you’re a writer, gamer or just love a good tale, it’s time to discover the boundary-defying nature of digital storytelling. Tickets are on sale now.

Learn more.

Looking back and moving ahead

Looking back over the last 50 years, we see countless ideas sparked, thousands of businesses started, hundreds of mysteries solved and millions of learners inspired. Our collection has grown to over 170 million physical items, not including our vast digital archive. We hold objects that date back more than 3,000 years, but also this morning’s newspapers, blogs and tweets. A copy of every published item in the UK comes to us, creating an ever-expanding collection for use by both present and future researchers.

And none of this would be possible without the passionate people we’re powered by, who offer guidance and expertise in abundance. From everyone who works here, to our Business & IP Centres and our partnerships with libraries across the country and all over the world, we help anyone who wants to start their own voyage of discovery.

At 50 years young, we’re only just getting started – and together, there’s so much further we can go.