The Norwegian library with unreadable books

BITS ‘N’ PIECES

Every year since 2014, Scottish artist Katie Paterson has invited a prominent writer to submit a manuscript, and the commission will continue until 2113. Then, a century after the start of the Future Library project, they will all finally be published.

It all started with author Margaret Atwood, who wrote a story called Scribbler Moon and since then the library has solicited submissions from around the world, with works by English novelist David Mitchell, Icelandic poet Sjón, Turkish Elif Shafak , by Han Kang of South Korea and the American-Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong. This year, the Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga and the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard came to share their stories.

All manuscripts will be stored in locked glass drawers in a hidden corner of Oslo’s main public library, in a small wooden repository called Silent Room.

The Silent Room is like a wooden cave, in a quiet corner among the bookshelves. Inside, ridges along the walls encircle the small space with 100 locked glass drawers, one for each of the manuscripts. “It feels like you’re inside a tree,” Paterson says. “It’s quite magical, because it’s very small and intimate: surrounded by rings of trees, with light shining through the manuscript drawers.”

One thing to admire about Future Library is its ability to evolve and adapt over time. Paterson and his colleagues designed it to give future generations the choice to shape the project: which authors to select, how to hold the ceremony each year, who to invite, and possibly what will appear on the covers of the books.

The Norwegian library with unreadable books

Flowers intended for long journeys require special attention to prepare them as soon as they are picked.

They are harvested early in the morning, when it is still cool, and they are the first to enter the cold room. Freshly harvested roses, for example, are then dipped in a chemical mixture to protect them from the botrytis fungus.

After that, the stems are put in buckets to absorb a hydration solution so that they can survive the thirty days without water. They are also put in a solution that curbs the growth hormone, ethylene, which causes flowers to age.

Once this process is complete, the flowers are then packed in cartons with holes in the top and bottom, allowing air from the container system to circulate.

“The flowers will be kept at a temperature of 0.5 degrees Celsius throughout the trip,” says Elizabeth Kimani, quality and standards manager at Sian Flowers.

In addition to controlling the temperature, the atmosphere system in the container reduces the level of oxygen from 20% to 4%, while increasing the level of carbon dioxide from 0.4% to 4%.

This technology is part of the elaborate process of preserving flowers for as long as possible. “Through this [system] you stop all activity in the flowers which therefore go dormant,” says Ms. Kimani, explaining that the flowers are dormant.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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