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, coins, and silicon microchips. 

For the Cambridge Festival 2023, we are creating an exhibition of crowd-sourced objects at the Alison Richard Building as well as a holding panel discussion and a 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).

Photography on this page courtesy of Judith Weik, Jonathon Keats and Modernism Inc., San Francisco.


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 creating 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 a talk 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:


The exhibition ran from 17 March – 14 April 2023 and was open on weekdays.

The exhibition took place on plinths in the atrium of the Alison Richard Building. Objects were placed and interchanged on the plinths by the curators/librarians, creating connections and conversations.

Since the exhibition ended, the Library index has been placed in CRASSH’s library, where it continues to be available for adding new objects.

Read an exhibition Q&A with Jonathon Keats and Robert Good.


Cambridge-based artist and podcaster Robert Good will conduct a series of short interviews about objects that have been submitted to or picked from the library.

The podcast will available from 17 March 2023.



Jonathon Keats will demonstrate protocols and techniques for conducting research in The Library of the Great Silence. This public talk 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. Followed by a panel discussion with artist and podcaster Robert Good.

29 March from 18:00 – 19:00.

Twitter collection


How to take part

Please note this page is for reference only.

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. They can be submitted to the Alison Richard Building (ARB), brought along and added to the exhibition, or submitted virtually via the hashtag #LibraryOfSilenceCambridge.

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 by using the following hashtags and handles: #LibraryOfGreatSilence @Cambridge_Fest @CRASSHlive
  • Participate in the panel discussion at the Cambridge Festival
  • Participate in an episode of the accompanying podcast series

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.


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