Exhibition dedicated to Herrnhutian cultural heritage

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An exhibition Awakening. The Story of the Herrnhutians will be open in the Level 5 Exhibition hall at the National Library of Latvia until 30 July 2023. The exhibition is one of the central events of the 500 Years of Latvian Books cycle in 2022, and the patron of the programme, the President of Latvia Egils Levits, has taken part in its opening. Entrance is free.

The exhibition features unique material – Herrnhutian manuscripts from the National Library of Latvia collection. In 2017, these were included in the Latvian National Register of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

The Herrnhutian or Unity of Brethren movement is one of the most unusual stories in Latvia's history of the 18th and 19th centuries. Started as a religious movement, it has influenced future generations much more widely – it awakened the struggle for Latvians' rights, raised self-consciousness, and promoted the development of education and choral singing. In various fields, its impact on Latvian society and culture extends to the present day.

The Herrnhutians paid great attention to the written word, passing manuscript texts of various genres from hand to hand: sermons, hymns, mission descriptions and letters, historical and literary essays, life stories. These materials hold testimonies not only about the Herrnhutian movement, but also about the spirituality and way of life of the Latvians of that era.

These texts – painstakingly written by taper light after a hard day's work – also captivate as visual objects. In the exhibition, they are complemented by modern design, as well as by animations inspired by the sketches of Johann Christoph Brotze. Visitors to the exhibition can take on the role of a Herrnhutian by rewriting an ancient manuscript, as well as listening to recordings of Herrnhutian life stories and hymns.

The authors of the exhibition content and texts are the NLL's leading researchers Beata Paškevica PhD and Pauls Daija PhD. The design was created by Anete Krūmiņa and Madara Lesīte-Volmane. Project managers were Inga Surgunte and Maija Treile.

The Awakening. The Story of the Herrnhutians exhibition will be complemented by a programme of events – readings, academic discussions and guided tours led by the exhibition creators. Groups of primary and secondary schoolchildren are invited to both the exhibition tour and the creative workshop, where, while attempting to write with a quill, they can find out about former times through practical activities, as well as discuss the role of manuscripts in their daily lives.

The exhibition was created as part of the Future of Cultural Heritage in Modern Europe Erasmus+ project and the Latvian Heritage and Future Challenges for National Sustainability National Research Programme project Importance of Documentary Heritage Research in Creating Synergies between Research and Society (No VPP-IZM-2018/1-0022) with the support of the State Culture Capital Foundation and SIA Rīgas meži.



Information prepared by:
Maija Treile
National Library of Latvia
Phone: +371 29631741
E-mail: maija.treile@lnb.lv