British Library reveals UK-wide programme of exhibitions for Spring/Summer 2022

The British Library has announced a new programme of exhibitions for the 2022 Spring/Summer season, with activity in London, Leeds and across the UK.

Exploring a diverse range of themes such as how UK news is made, the masterful use of gold in embellishing the written word and the Industrial Revolution, the season will showcase a range of material from the national collection, including manuscripts, newspapers, scrolls and printed books.

In response to the themes of Breaking the News, public libraries around the UK will showcase material from their own collections via a series of simultaneous pop-up displays, set to open ahead of the British Library’s exhibition. The season also reflects the Library’s work with community partners and organisations in Leeds to develop a growing programme of cultural events and activities, with Living with Machines the first major British Library exhibition to be hosted in the city, at Leeds City Museum.

Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning at the British Library, commented: “This season is a dynamic one – showcasing our partnerships with public libraries, museums, galleries, and cutting edge research institutions all around the UK.

Our programme presents some of the Library’s most spectacular objects, books and manuscripts from the last five hundred years, as well as a brand new artist commission. Inspired by new technology, it offers new perspectives on some of the most pressing questions of today.

We’re very excited about what 2022 has in store, and look forward to welcoming audiences both familiar and new.”

In London

Breaking the News

22 April – 21 August 2022, British Library

Opening next Spring, Breaking the News, supported by Newsworks, is the British Library’s first major exhibition to spotlight the role news plays in our society, exploring issues of choice, interpretation, truth and trust in the news.

From the earliest surviving printed news report in Britain on the Battle of Flodden to smashed hard drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s hard files and an original BBC radio script of the D-Day landings; Breaking the News will go beyond physical newspapers to examine the role news plays in our lives. Presenting historical and contemporary reports on war, natural disasters, crime, politics and celebrity scandals, the exhibition will reveal that whilst the themes that interest us generally don’t change, the form and ownership of news does.

Breaking the News will interrogate what makes an event news, what a free press means, the ethics involved in making the news, what objective news is and how the way we encounter news has evolved. Delving into the biggest collection of news heritage in the UK, housed by the British Library, these pressing issues will be set against the backdrop of over five centuries of news publication in Britain through newspapers, newsreels, radio, television, the internet and social media.


20 May – 2 October 2022, British Library

Gold has long held the power to dazzle and ignite feelings of wonder. This new exhibition will take visitors on a journey to over 20 countries to discover how gold has been used to embellish and enhance the written word across cultures, faiths and through time. Showcasing some of the most luxurious illuminated manuscripts, gold-tooled books, sacred texts and scrolls from the British Library’s collection, objects on display will include the Harley Golden Gospels, the Lotus Sutra and a treaty in Malayalam, beautifully inscribed on a long strip of gold itself. Through these stunning objects, Gold will examine the masterful techniques used to handle such a precious metal and tell the stories of those who owned these extraordinary books.

Tickets are available to book at

In Leeds

Living with Machines

29 July 2022 – 8 January 2023, Leeds City Museum

This free exhibition will shed fresh light on the Industrial Revolution by exploring how advances in technology impacted the lives of ordinary people. It has been developed with Leeds City Museum and is inspired by the Living with Machines research project – a partnership between the British Library and The Alan Turing Institute and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).  

Revisiting the national story of industrialisation, Living with Machines will challenge the familiar story of “coal and cotton”, revealing new and untold stories that show how the introduction of machines into work – whether in factories, fields or homes – changed the lives of ordinary people in Leeds. Showcasing a diverse array of material, including paintings, drawings, clothing, metalwork, machinery, newspapers and ephemera from Leeds Museums & Galleries, the British Library and more, Living with Machines will include contemporary community responses from Leeds audiences, considering in parallel how life in the twenty-first century has been impacted by advances in technology.

The exhibition builds on the British Library’s work with local partners and communities in Leeds to develop a growing programme of cultural events and learning activities.

Leeds Art Gallery artist commission

25 March – 16 October 2022, Leeds Art Gallery

A new body of work by Leeds-based artist Jill McKnight will explore how people in the Leeds region have represented themselves over time. The six month artist residency will culminate in a new, free to view exhibit hosted at Leeds Art Gallery – the first of two projects developed in collaboration between the British Library and Leeds Museums & Galleries due to open in 2022.

Through a mixture of sculpture, print, sound and video, Jill McKnight will explore the stories of people historically under-represented in the arts. Jill explains, “The project particularly interested me because it focused on cultural identity which is one of my central artistic concerns, particularly the representation of working-class people in Northern England and lesser-heard voices that would otherwise be lost or overlooked.”

Jill McKnight’s exhibit will respond to the collections of the British Library and Leeds Art Gallery. Folk songs and interviews with Leeds residents from the Library’s Accents & Dialects and World & Traditional Music audio collections have provided inspiration to the artist, alongside the works of Edna Lumb and Effie Hummerston in Leeds Art Gallery’s Works on Paper collection.

This exhibit builds on the British Library’s work in Leeds with local partners and communities to develop a growing programme of cultural events and learning activities.

…and across the UK

From 24 February 2022

Ahead of the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays will open at over 30 public libraries across the UK, via the Living Knowledge Network. The displays will draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK.