Celebrating 250 Years of NUK: Honoring Slovenia’s National and University library legacy

“The library is something that matters not just for us, but equally for everyone and for all professions. People from all walks of life would visit the library for inspiration, their salvation. It is something created for all times.” – Jože Plečnik, 1933.

In 2024, we celebrate 250 years since the inception of the National and University Library (NUK). On May 28th, 2024 as part of the jubilee celebrations, a ceremonial academy was held in the Great Reading Room of NUK.

The keynote speaker was the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Nataša Pirc Musar, who also awarded NUK the Order for Exceptional Merits. In her address, the President reflected on the beginnings of NUK and emphasized that “we have few secular institutions that can boast their age in centuries.” Director Viljem Leban, in his thank-you speech, highlighted, “The nation is united by the desire to preserve cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations. And it is precisely this task of collecting and preserving materials, especially in Slovenian and about Slovenians, that NUK performs.”

The gathering was also addressed by the President of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), Dr. Peter Štih, who stressed in his speech that NUK is the oldest continuously operating institution on Slovenian soil and one of the main symbols of Slovenian spiritual and creative history.

The Minister of Culture, Dr. Asta Vrečko, among other things, reminded of the architectural value of NUK and the architecture of other libraries across Slovenia. “These are spaces that shelter our thoughts, educate children, provide refuge for reflection, reading, creativity, and the expansion of imagination. They are those internal public spaces where we feel safe, where we can take refuge, and they are the spaces that, in a society of false information and where even the written word is often no longer something we can rely on daily, provide comfort and security,” the Minister emphasized.

The ceremonial academy was hosted by Bernarda Žarn and Matej Puc, with performances by duo Silece, Tomaž Gajšt, and an opera trio.

On the occasion of the jubilee, NUK has also prepared an exhibition titled “Preserving Thoughts – 250 Years Already”. This exhibition, through materials, thoughts, and images, showcases what it means to collect, store, preserve, and transmit materials and care for many audiences. Original treasures from their collection, materials of exceptional importance, are also displayed in the exhibition. The exhibition includes the first inventories of collections, catalogs, and official correspondence.

Also on display is the Stična Manuscript, one of the most important Slovenian medieval texts, created in the Cistercian monastery in Stična around 1428.

Jože Plečnik, the architect behind the National and University Library’s iconic building, was a renowned Slovenian architect who played a crucial role in shaping the architectural landscape of Slovenia and beyond. His innovative and eclectic style, which combined elements of classical architecture with modernist principles, left a lasting impact on urban design and public spaces. Plečnik’s most significant contributions include his work in Ljubljana, where he transformed the city with his designs for bridges, public buildings, parks, and other urban elements.

The history of NUK and more information is available on the website.