The Book of Travels is a collaboration between the British Council, Maslaha and Effusion as part of the Our Shared Europe project, which aims to highlight the constant influence and sharing of ideas that has occurred between individuals and societies.

This is no ordinary website – our busy team spent a few weeks designing, painting, draping, and building to transform Bethnal Green Library – the site where Samuel Pepys, a contemporary of Evliya Celebi, stored his diaries during the Great Fire of London – into a carefully crafted physical exhibition.    The decision to first build a physical exhibition and then digitally capture it to transform it into a virtual experiment means that the Book of Travels is also a technological feat – using two different forms of cutting edge technologies to capture the experience of being in the exhibition in real time and space.

In addition, the Book of Travels brought together an unusually wide range of contributors, including:

  • The Khalili art collection, the largest private Islamic art collection in the world
  • Music from the Royal Academy of Music
  • Suki Chan, award winning film maker who recently appeared in the BBC’S School of Saatchi
  • Mercan Dede, an international Turkish Sufi pop star
  • World renowned Ottoman historians such as Caroline Finkel, Donna Landry, and Gerald Maclean

The result is a fascinating exhibition which brings together enlightening tales from the Ottoman era, striking images, beautiful film artistry and music composed especially for the project.  The Book of Travels is also a valuable educational resource, with application that extends from the school tours we led around Bethnal Green Library to its universal accessibility from within classrooms and homes across Europe.

By turning the physical exhibition into an online experience, The Book of Travels has a permanence which extends beyond the paint and wood we built in Bethnal Green Library.  That said, there are also plans afoot to rebuild the physical exhibition.  Watch this space to find out more.

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