Downing College LibrarySARA RAWLINSON

As term comes to a start, what better way to contemplate the return to reading than visiting Sara Rawlinson’s solo photography exhibition at the Michaelhouse Centre – it’s on the perfect subject matter! Over the course of three years Sara has put together an impressive collection of over 1,800 images of Cambridge libraries, featuring at least one image from each of the 31 college libraries. Her current exhibition focuses on library contents (mostly books of course!) and includes just a minuscule snapshot of her much greater work which will hopefully be exhibited next year.

Whether you like photography or not, this is the perfect exhibition to pop down and see during your first week

In the complete series of over 1,800 images, modern libraries stand stark next to older, more historic architecture. The same contrast is present in her upcoming exhibition which seeks to highlight the “features that enable the dissemination and preservation of knowledge”. You may find a crusty and tattered looking classic book curated next to a recent publication in plastic film. Some show signs of wear and tear, having been read by hundreds of students over the years. Others have pristine binding, untouched. For a book lover, it’s a tantalising way to look at old and new, focusing on their appearance as opposed to smell, which is often the first thing we notice when we open a crisp new book, or a musty older one.

Sara's exhibition runs from the 30th September to the 12th October at the Michaelhouse CentreSARA RAWLINSON

While each and every college library is unique and beautiful in their own right, when looking through a snapshot of Sara’s series, the one which really stood out to me was Jesus College’s Old Library. Her collection includes a staggering 59 images of this historic building and its contents but my small glimpse alone revealed it to be a true beauty. Worn in wood, stained glass windows and a bolt entrance – it’s everything that comes to mind when you think of a traditional library and the books too are similarly old and classic looking.

You may find a crusty and tattered looking classic book curated next to a recent publication in plastic film

By contrast, Wolfson College’s Lee Seng Tee Library looks like an oasis of modern elements. Pebbles and finer stones line the staircase and natural light bounces off the glass walls, the opposite to bolted doors and musty smells. Shrubbery and plants liven the place, and a few bright pink chairs lay waiting for their next reader. Everything about this library speaks of youth and the framings, shelves and books speak of a new era too.

So, whether you like photography or not, this is the perfect exhibition to pop down and see during your first week. Muster the courage to finally complete that holiday work by looking at stunning images of some of Cambridge’s most iconic looking books, or see if you can notice the small details to spot your own college library among the series.

Lucy Cavendish College LibrarySARARAWLINSON

As this exhibition focuses on the contents of our well-known libraries, it’s also worth keeping an eye out for Sara’s final exhibition in the future, which will hopefully showcase the architecture of our beloved libraries too. Here, you will have the perfect opportunity to make a list of all the libraries you’d like to visit before you graduate. Alternatively, head to her website and order a print of your college library – a perfect graduation memento or present.


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Sara Rawlinson’s solo exhibition will be open from the 30th of September to the 12th of October only from 8am – 5pm (except Sundays) at the Michaelhouse Centre in Cambridge. This can be found at 1 Trinity Street, Cambridge, CB2 1SU.

For more information visit Sara’s website: hello@sararawlinson.com.

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