I was this month delighted to be invited to the opening of the new Senior School Library at the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge.

The room which has been converted to the library is a great space with high ceilings lots of natural light and comfy chairs!


The Stephen Perse Foundation Senior School Library

Given that so much information is these days in electronic form, indeed the school provide electronic tablets to all pupils, the school have completely re-imagined the form and function of a library in the digital age, at the heart of which is a Cabinet of Curiosities – “we have appreciated the vital role of curating and of using, as our own Curator, Katie Joice, has put it, a powerful combination of ‘juxtaposition, surprise, and ambiguity’ to inspire wonder, pique interest, and guide the imagination and intellectual curiosity of the onlooker”.

Hadrosaurus Eggs in Nest

It truly is a most exciting space, to which I am delighted to be loaning, for display, some of my fossils including the Hadrosaurus dinosaur eggs.

The theme for the opening and first exhibition in the library was “Jacquetta Hawkes and Deep Time”.  Hawkes (1910-1996) was a former student at the school and a most fascinating lady whose passion for the distant past was combined with great skill as a writer.  Whilst still at school she wrote an essay announcing her intention to become an archaeologist, then went on to become the first woman to qualify to study archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge, the only course of its kind at the time.

Fossilised Trilobite

As part of the event we heard from Dr Robert Macfarlane who spoke on “Trilobite-Sight: Deep Time and Thinking Outwards” reflecting on both Cabinets of Curiosity and Jacquetta Hawkes herself.  His inspiring insights covered not only Hawkes but ranged from Thomas Hardy’s original ‘cliff hanger’ to the ‘knights of the hammer’ (the Geological Society of London 1807), with much amusement and interest in between.

The Principal and staff at the Stephen Perse Foundation are truly inspirational, not least this was showcased by some appropriate songs and readings performed by just a few of the students, who gave an outstanding performance in front of what must have been a daunting crowd.  All in all it was a wonderful evening.

The school will be regularly changing the themes and displays in this wonderful space, in order to continue to stimulate their pupils – I look forward to hearing what will be next in this veritable ‘Wunderkammer’ (cabinet of curiosities).