We look forward to welcoming you back soon. The Institution is in the Step 3 reopening plan (implemented no earlier than May 18th).
Keep in touch with us on social media, contact us by email or join us as a member to receive our newsletter, remote services and resources.
Contact us:
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

What's on

Hidden Nature Library Lecture – April 2021

The theme of our series this year is Hidden Nature. We will explore some of the hidden aspects of Devon, our heritage building, library and Enlightenment collections in general, through the eyes of a diverse group of speakers.
This month, Paul Auchterlonie speaks on Devon and the Middle East.

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Trustees needed to help us to deliver The Next Chapter   – March 2021

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.  We are an innovative and go-ahead organisation often leading the way in the Independent Library Sector and the cultural life of the City of Exeter. 

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International Women’s Day ‘Trade and Exchange’ Event Recording

Join artists Naomi Hart and Emma Molony and University of Exeter academics Dr Ceri Lewis (Associate Professor in Marine Biology) and Rebecca Lovell (Research Fellow at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health) for a special online talk about art, nature and science to celebrate International Women's Day.

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Hidden Nature Library Lecture – February 2021

The theme of our series this year is Hidden Nature. We will explore some of the hidden aspects of Devon, our heritage building, library and Enlightenment collections in general, through the eyes of a diverse group of speakers.

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A ‘Cornish boy, in tin-mines bred’: the legend of John Opie (1761-1807)

Born in Mithian, St Agnes, Cornwall, John Opie (1761-1807) overcame his humble birth to become a Royal Academician and one of the foremost portraitists and landscape artists of his day. He was introduced to the London art world as a self-taught Rousseauian 'noble savage', raised in a ‘remote and secluded part of the island’, who rose to fame ‘unassisted by partial patronage’. However, little of this was true.

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Temporary Closure

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement we will be temporarily closing the Institution on Thursday 5 November for one month. We are planning to open again on Thursday 3 December.

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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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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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Colour Our Collections Week (1-5 February 2021)

The first week of February is ‘Colour Our Collections’ week. This annual event, organised by the New York Academy of Medicine, invites libraries and museums all over the world to celebrate their collections in colour. This year we have chosen three recently-digitised drawings from our prints and drawings collection. Whatever you choose to colour with – whether coloured pencils, felt-tips, crayons, pastels or paint - click on the images below, print the colouring sheets, and get colouring!  You can share your creations on social media by tagging us and adding the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

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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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The Great Exhibition – 170 years on

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations opened in Hyde Park, London, on 1st May 1851.  It was spearheaded by Prince Albert and members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (later the Royal Society of Arts), including Sir Henry Cole.  The Crystal Palace - an incredible cast iron and glass structure, measuring 1848 feet long and 454 feet wide – was constructed in just nine months.  The Great Exhibition was to be a ‘wonder of the world’ – a celebration of international industrial design and technology with exhibits from all corners of the earth. But, principally, it was to be a grandstand for Britain and for British manufacturing.

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