Objects as a catalyst for change, from personal to global

From the catastrophic impact of climate change to the enduring threat of nuclear annihilation, modern civilisation is in danger. Overseen by the conceptual artist and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, The Library of the Great Silence is a unique research facility dedicated to examining existential risks of the present, and to facilitating discussion about future flourishing, by investigating societal transformations from the past. 

Instead of shelving books, the Library of the Great Silence collects objects, each of which is open to interpretation by everyone. Objects are chosen based on their pivotal significance. Examples include stone tools, gold coins, and silicon microchips. 

For the Cambridge Festival 2023, we are proposing an exhibition of crowd-sourced objects at the Alison Richard Building as well as a workshop, walking tour and podcast based on objects suggested by institutions, places and the public in Cambridge. We are looking for interested parties to get involved in the ways outlined below. For questions on how to take part please email Judith Weik at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).


The Library of the Great Silence is a project devised by San Francisco based conceptual artist and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, Cambridge based artist Robert Good, and artist and curator Judith Weik (Art at the ARBCentre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities).

For the Cambridge Festival we are proposing an exhibition and virtual collection of ‘Objects as a catalyst for Change’ in the atrium of the Alison Richard Building at the University of Cambridge, accompanied by a podcast series by Robert Good and an expedition and workshop by Jonathon Keats.

This exhibition will form part of Jonathon Keats’ ‘Library of the Great Silence’ an international art and philosophy project of exhibitions and installations, see for example: THE LIBRARY OF THE GREAT SILENCE: A Terrestrial Center for Interstellar Research on Planetary Futures at the Seti Institute.

The objects for the Cambridge branch of the library and exhibition will be collected and submitted by the public, places, institutions, and museums around Cambridge, both town and gown.

Further information about the library project:

How to take part

We would like to invite you to be a part of this project by submitting one or more objects from your place or institution to the exhibition and library.

Objects (whether physical or virtual) should carry the notion of ‘transformation’ whether personal or global. The can be submitted to the Alison Richard Building (ARB), brought along and added to the exhibition, or submitted virtually via the hashtag #LibraryOfSilenceCambridge. Objects in museums other places in the city may be included on a map that will be created to go alongside the exhibition in the ARB.

A crowdsourced collection of societal transformations

Ways you can take part:

  • Submit transformative objects to the display at CRASSH
  • Highlight transformative objects in your own displays/archive virtually (via #LibraryOfSilenceCambridge on Twitter)
  • Inclusion on an expedition through Cambridge seeking out transformative objects
  • Inclusion on a map of the library collections and objects in Cambridge
  • Participate in the panel discussion at the Cambridge Festival
  • Participate in an episode of the accompanying podcast series
  • Host a talk with Jonathon Keats in your department or institution

Some example objects from previous library displays are: microscope, casting mould, teddy bear, corporate seal, alarm clock, wooden gear, hourglass, padlock, paper currency, microchip, dice, pencil, bead, sewing needle, plastic dog bone, covid test, origami crane, seed packet

For any queries and for submitting objects (in all of the above ways) contact Judith Weik.


Exhibition dates: 17 March – 14 April 2023

The exhibition will take place on plinths in the atrium of the Alison Richard Building. Objects will be placed and interchanged on the plinths by the curators and the audience, creating connections and conversations. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to interact with the display.


To complement the exhibition, we propose that Keats will lead members of the public on an expedition to accession additional materials. This walking tour will take people to local museums and markets – even a Tesco Superstore – as well as historic and contemporary landmarks. Participants will collectively choose objects, which will either be acquired or marked on a map charting a future citywide library.

A map will be created with objects located within walking distance of the city of Cambridge.


Following the expedition, Jonathon Keats proposes to demonstrate protocols and techniques for conducting research in the Library of the Great Silence. This public workshop will show how the arrangement and organisation of transformational objects can be used to elucidate the past trajectory of civilisation in the interest of prediction, intervention, and innovation.


Cambridge based artist and podcaster Robert Good will conduct a series of short interviews with academics, artists and activists about objects they have submitted to or picked from the library. The podcast series is available on Soundcloud and the CRASSH website.


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk