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The Bibliothèque Nationale de France: A Renaissance

Published on , by Mylène Sultan

The National Library of France has been renovated from top to bottom. The now restored historic spaces are open to all. A new chapter is beginning for a building that has housed "the memory of the world" for three centuries.

The newly renovated Oval Room.© Jean-Christophe Ballot - BnF - Oppic The Bibliothèque Nationale de France: A Renaissance
The newly renovated Oval Room.
© Jean-Christophe Ballot - BnF - Oppic
On September 17 and 18, visitors will be able to enter the historic buildings of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), a temple of knowledge that houses some 22 million manuscripts, prints, photographs, maps, plans, coins, medals, antiques and jewelry. About 50 actors, singers, dancers and acrobats will guide visitors through spaces transformed by a 12-year restoration, a maze that had been so long hidden by fences that they had almost become mysterious. The first phase of work ended in January 2017, when the magnificently restored Labrouste Room on the rue de Richelieu side was opened. The next phase targeted the 22,000m 2 (236,806 ft 2 ) east wing along rue Vivienne, including the emblematic Oval Room, designed between 1872 and 1936 by architect Jean-Louis Pascal and his successor Alfred-Henri Recoura, and three vestiges of the 17 th -century Mazarin Palace that are designated historic monuments: the Mansart Gallery, which was used as an exhibition space with no consideration given to its original subtle grisaille decoration; the Cardinal’s Room, transformed into a passageway; and the Mazarin Gallery, hung with dark red curtains, cluttered with desks and chairs on which generations of students wore out the seat of their pants beneath Giovanni Francesco Romanelli’s 1646 vault paintings masked by an iron grille from which chandeliers and spotlights…
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