According to my newspaper last week the appearance of cygnets on our lakes marks the official start of summer. However, I tend to mark this by looking at the starting dates for blockbuster events, and – which won’t be news to you - there is no shortage of these this year. Quite apart from the obvious ones, there are several gems to be held here at the British Library which might – quite understandably, given the competition, have escaped your notice.
First up is Olympex 2012: collecting the Olympic Games, which runs from 24 July to 9 September here at St Pancras, and which is a special exhibition presented jointly by the International Olympic Committee and the British Library. Admission is free, and it will be well worth a look, particularly if you are keen on the collecting & memorabilia side of the Olympic Games or on Olympic iconography more generally.
Unusually for the Library, the exhibition is based not on our collections (although we do, of course, have many Olympics-related materials) but upon the collections of private individuals. There will be more than 2500 stamps on display – showing how the imagery of the Olympics has changed over time - as well as handwritten postcards and letters from athletes, spectators and public figures. One of the themes will focus on the three occasions upon which London has acted as the host city (in 1908, 1948 and 2012) so a treat is in store for nostalgia seekers! Two fascinating evening talks accompany the exhibition and these can be booked online. Follow this link for further information:
Olympex is by no means a one-off event, but takes place during every Olympic Games and proves a magnet for Games philately enthusiasts. Olympex 2008 in Beijing was a huge success, giving ample evidence – judging from the queues of eager participants - that Chinese collectors are becoming involved in the hobby in a very big way. But non collectors will be interested too, because the Olympic stamps are clearly works of art in themselves and can tell us a great deal about the way the Games are regarded, on both the political and personal levels. The issuing of them dates right back to the Athens Games of 1896 and the Olympic stamp issue is a significant part of the host country postal administration’s contribution to the cultural side of the event. In addition around 100 nations will celebrate the summer Games with issues of their own.
So if you can, try and pay us a visit!