We are delighted to begin the phased reopening of The Institution from July, please follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates

What's on

Directors report to AGM 2020

2019-2020 has been an extraordinary year.  Like many heritage organisations, we had to close our doors in March and adapt quickly to a locked-down world.  At the same time, we also received notification of our successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our exciting new project, The Next Chapter.  Needless to say, there have been ups and downs but we have faced challenges in the spirit of the 19th century scientists who founded the Institution in 1813, adapting and innovating our programme and services so that we have continued to flourish and connect with our members and supporters.

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Celebrating Libraries Week (5-10 October 2020)

Libraries Week is an annual showcase of the best that libraries have to offer, celebrating the nation's much-loved libraries and their vital role in the UK's book culture. We have been celebrating this week with a series of readings by our members and volunteers. We hope you enjoy them.

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Saturday Programme – October

We are delighted to bring back our free Saturday workshops which will now be bookable and limited to six participants. All workshops take inspiration from our special collections and heritage site.   

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Mayflower: marking 400 years

Daniel Neal (1678-1743), a historian and nonconformist minister, published the first volume of The History of the Puritans in 1732; the final fourth volume appeared in 1738. Neal’s story starts with the Protestant Reformation and concludes with the Act of Toleration in the reign of William and Mary. The second volume includes an account of the voyage of Mayflower to the new ‘Promised Land’.

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Heritage Open Days – A Snapshot in Time

Much of Exeter’s long history has been well documented, however one area that is less well documented is the West Quarter. Whilst the famous Stepcote Hill is featured in many postcards and guidebooks, the area around it, prosperous in medieval times, was designated a slum area in the 1920s and scheduled for redevelopment.

Last September historian Dr Julia Neville, in collaboration with the DEI, invited members to join a research group to study the history of the West Quarter in the 1920s. The group has been working on the project since then, using resources from the DEI library, those at the Devon Heritage Centre and the Central Library, and websites such as .ancestry.co.uk. Of course, the group’s work has been challenged by the Covid-19 crisis, but members have continued utilising on-line resources.

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Trustees needed to help us to deliver ‘The Next Chapter’

The Devon and Exeter Institution is an Independent Library and Educational Charity in the heart of Exeter, founded in 1813. We welcome new members and visitors of all ages. In March 2020 we were awarded a major grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our development project 'The Next Chapter'.

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Lithographs of the Great Western Railway by John Cooke Bourne (1814-1896)

From his home in London, John Cooke Bourne (1814-1896) witnessed the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway, the first main-line railway to enter London. The London and Birmingham Railway Company was founded in 1833 and work soon began on a London terminus. Engineers George and Robert Stephenson chose a site on the edge of the city; a station with two platforms and two hotels was designed by Philip Hardwick (1792–1870) with a huge 70-foot Doric portico marking the gateway to the north. London Euston station officially opened on 20 July 1837. The following year a temporary terminus opened on Bishop’s Bridge Road in Paddington heralding the expansion of the railways to the west.

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John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera

Originally from Barnstaple in Devon, John Gay (1685-1732) became one of London’s most renowned dramatists. His satirical ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera, opened at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre on 29 January 1728 and ran for 62 nights. Gay’s assault on the topsy-turvy morals, double-standards and self-interests of 18th century politics and aristocratic society remains one of the few 18th century plays still performed today.

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An intricate and arduous undertaking: George Montagu (1753-1815) and his collection of shells

Beautiful, intricate and varied, shells have adorned our clothes, our homes and our objects of art for centuries. From the end of the 17th century, natural scientists began to collect, organise, observe and draw them in earnest. George Montagu’s Testacea Britannica (1803) is one of the most important works of natural history to come out of the Age of Enlightenment – and it has a special significance for Exeter.

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William Savage’s Practical hints on decorative printing (1822)

From the early 19th century, Koenig & Bauer’s new steam-powered double-cylinder printing press, capable of printing over 1100 sheets an hour, disseminated information fast. The circulation of The Times newspaper increased from 5,000 to 50,000 by the middle of the century. However, not all printing was about speed – in 1822 William Savage published his guide to fine art printmaking – still a popular art form today.

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Family lockdown activities and Bookworms Boredom Busters

Throughout March, April and May 2020 we were delighted to bring you our popular family learning programme and Bookworms junior members' club online.
Linked here - Join in with craft activities, workshops and experiments using materials that are easy to find at home.

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Our Region Revealed Jigsaws

A fun way to engage with our collections, whatever your age. These pictures are newly-digitised illustrations from Our Region Revealed project. Each puzzle can be adapted from a 6-piece puzzle for little ones to a 1000-piece puzzle for experts - you decide!

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Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and his Library of Congress

The third President of the United States of America is best known for drafting the Declaration of Independence that galvanised the British colonies in their fight to become a new nation. At home he immersed himself in science, engineering, architecture and book collecting – even rescuing one of the world’s greatest libraries.

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Stories of Spirited Children

Lunchtime Lecture: Sometimes, though we try very hard, we don’t always behave how we would like to! Keep out of mischief with these stories about spirited children.

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Update on opening hours

Due to the current situation the DEI will remain closed until further notice.
In the meantime we are proud to be bringing much of our programme and events online to provide diversion, entertainment and activities while we are all shut away from the real world. Keep checking our website and social media for new content.

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Current vacancies

Deadline 8 June 2020 -
We are tendering for a Conservation Architect.
The Devon and Exeter institution is Grade II* listed building adjacent to a Scheduled Monument which houses an independent library and dating from 1813. We have been an educational charity since 1989. We completed a major structural restoration to the roof on time and on budget, between 2015-2017 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England.
We are now seeking to appoint an architect to deliver the preliminary works for the development phase of another major National Heritage Lottery Funded project.

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