Saturday, August 27, 2016


The highlight of today's exploration was a visit to La biblioteque, la nuit (The library, the night), a special virtual reality exhibit in the basement of Montreal's grand main library.
The show was conceived by theatrical designer Robert Lapage, creator of the infamous "machine" behind the Met Opera's recent Ring Cycle, and Argentine–Canadian translator and editor Alberto Manguel. It owes a lot to Borges
At the appointed hour, those of us with reservations were ushered into a facsimile  of a cozy cottage library, complete with fake books and Breugel's painting of the Tower of Babel. 
After instructions on how to work our Oculus Rift headsets, a wall opened to reveal a forest full of library tables. 
(These tables are from the special collection. Photos weren't permitted.)
That's me!
The program consists of visiting 10 mythic libraries, mostly based on real places plus Captain Nemo's library in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Bosnia. The Library of Congress in DC. Japan and Denmark.

The Vasconcelos Library in Mexico, complete with whale skeleton. (Not a good place to be during an earthquake.) And of course Ottawa.

It's a fantastic experience to travel the world without leaving your (not very comfortable) wooden library chair. With a big awkward thing on your head. 

One of the best segments was about Henri Labrouste who introduced gas lamps when he designed Saint Genevieve in Paris, which made it possible to read at night. Night owls around the world thank you.

Afterward I explored the cavernous space, next to UQAM and filled with people. 
It manages to be both private and communal.

The seating is playful and thoughtfully designed. 

Lots of outlets and free, fast wifi. Books aren't just paper any more though I did spot some microfiche machines upstairs. 

There were sculptures too. 
Acknowledging the role a safe public space plays when people have nowhere to go. 

I liked this weird book globe. 
Close up.

A library full of people on a beautiful Saturday night at the end of summer. In a highly literate city where you can hear a cacophony of languages. Bonne nuit.

Thanks to Jerry for recommending this exhibit.

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