Athenaeum – The Library Re-imagined

Athenaeum – The Library Reimagined, represents an outer-voice and each entry in Apotheosis represents an inner-voice. The inner-voice symbolises connecting with inner-tacit wisdom and hidden-knowledge through the self-archival process of documenting both fictional and non-fictional memories, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Through the act of sharing and disseminating, the internal then becomes the external. Apotheosis is an epistolary novel formed of diary entries in poem format symbolising a ‘library of the self’, which when presented as part of the RCA group project, becomes a ‘library within a library’.

“Athenaeum: The Library Re-imagined, is a collaborative publication created by the MRes Communication Design Pathway at the Royal College of Art, and is part of their Research Biennale 2021. It addresses overarching questions emerging from the global pandemic. Working in dialogue with RCA library staff members Angie Applegate and Tom Cridford, students on the Pathway experimented with imaginative approaches to what the ‘expanded library’ of the pandemic era might be, and what approaches, skills and forms of imagination communication design can offer. How does the definition of the library change when we move beyond its physical walls (or does it)? How might we design more equitable, sustainable, imaginative systems for creating and facilitating the sharing and creation of knowledge?

Within this publication, it is not only the library as conventionally construed – shelves of books housed within four walls – that has been subject to reimagination by the Communication Design Pathway. The contributions in Athenaeum reflect on the act of reading, for instance, what constitutes a safe space, and what it would mean for books to ‘perform’ using 3D typography. They pilot new modes of thinking about what the library could feel like and sound like, what new opportunities for community building might emerge if we searched for books via memes rather than the Dewey Decimal System, if we encountered library collections serendipitously while walking outdoors, what a library of emotions and experiences might look like, and much more.

The word ‘athenaeum’ has been lent to many types of institutions with the collection, generation, and sharing of knowledge at their foundation, including libraries. The ancient Roman Athenaeum, however, was a school. This merging of library/school is at the centre of the Communication Design students’ publication. Together, the chapters in Athenaeum act as a kind of ‘how to’, not in the sense of a definitive set of steps for achieving a single defined outcome, but as a set of shimmering possibilities, guiding us toward someplace new.” – Emily Candela, pathway leader

Apotheosis Chapter in Athenaeum: RE:Birth:

Athenaeum – The Library Reimagined: