The National Library of Norway

Revealing the fragments that helped shape a nation

Exhibition Design, Gallery Design, Graphic Design, Selected

Opplyst is a new permanent exhibition designed by Nissen Richards Studio at The National Library of Norway. Opplyst, meaning ‘Enlightened’, refers to the central concept: the display of thirty highly-significant objects from the country’s history – fragments that helped shape the nation. The objects are now on display together for the first time, with every surface and aspect bespoke-designed by Nissen Richards Studio to help create this dramatic and intense immersion into Norway’s fascinating history.

Whilst light and darkness were metaphors for the exhibition, including the concept of knowledge arising like light out of the darkness, they also became structuring devices. A second source of design inspiration came from the location of the Library’s full object collection. This archive, effectively a catalogue of Norwegian culture, is stored in the belly of a mountain and accessed via a fully-mechanised system, whereby a robot brings objects out on demand. The back wall of the new space is effectively an abstracted version of the drawers that hold the full set of historical objects, designed with timber blocks to form a surface of varying depths.

The objects selected for Opplyst tell of great breakthroughs, creative masterpieces and crucial events that shaped the country’s capacity for expression and sense of nationhood. They range from a 12th-century psalter and Magnus Lagabotes Landslov, the Norwegian equivalent of the Magna Carta to an early example of a chain letter, known as a ‘letter from heaven’, a Grieg piano concerto and a letter from the South Pole by explorer Roald Amundsen, along with censored fragments from one of the earliest Norwegian silent movies made in Norway. All objects were to be of equal standing and without hierarchy or chronology, also ensuring flexibility for the exhibition in the longer term.


The National Library of Norway




Studio ZNA, Petter Halvorsen, Factory Settings, Meyvaert, Sysco Productions, Displayways

photography: Gareth Gardner