Talk & Discussion

British Library: Animal Tales with Matthew Shaw

12 Aug 2015

 / 6:00pm to 8:00pm
 / Free

Second Home and The British Library come to Hanbury St to present a talk from Matthew Shaw, lead curator of the British Library's American Collections.

From Aesop’s Fables to Ted Hughes’s Crow, the stories we tell about animals are often stories about us. This exhibition goes on the trail of animals on the page, asking why they have come to play such an important role in literature for adults and children alike.

From the earliest marks made by humans in caves to the modern-day internet full of cute cats, animals have been enduring media stars. Symbols of the sacred or the profane, the domesticated or the ferocious, animals have always fed our imagination helping us to make sense of the world and ourselves. Inspiring writers, poets, scientists and artists through the ages, a library can become the largest zoo in the world when you begin to track down the creatures lurking among the pages on the shelves.

Animal Tales explores what wild – and tamed – creatures say about us when they take on literary or artistic form and displays richly illustrated editions of traditional tales, from Anansi to Little Red Riding Hood. And be closer to nature with a soundscape based on the Library’s collection of sound recordings, with illustrations and poems by Mark Doty and Darren Waterston.

Matthew Shaw is lead curator of the Americas & Australasian Collections at the British Library. He has curated a number of exhibitions, including Taking Liberties: the struggle for Britain’s rights and freedoms (in 2008) and Enduring War: grief, grit and humour (2014). He is now curating Animal Tales, which opens on 7 August at the British Library. He is author of Time and the French Revolution: the French Republican Calendar.

Image © Darren Waterston, 2013