Preserving thoughts - for 250 years

National and university library

Preserving thoughts - for 250 years



[250 treasures]

In 2024, we are commemorating 250 years since the beginnings of the National and University Library (NUK). As the successor of the Lyceum Library, its beginnings can be dated to 1774, when the first 637 books were assigned to public use following a decree of Maria Theresa. In the eighteenth century, the era of enlightened absolutism, the first public libraries began to be established, providing a broader public with access to information and knowledge. Books from the libraries of the dissolved Jesuit Order formed the initial collections of many public libraries of the Hapsburg Empire at that time. Among them was the Lyceum Library in Ljubljana.

This year, the National and University Library is celebrating 250 years since the decision to provide access to the written word and knowledge; the decision to ensure the path of literacy, the path of reading and to develop a society that places its faith in learning, education, knowledge and critical thinking; the decision to nurture a society of knowledge and culture.

This decision was followed by 250 years of dedicated work for the cultural and scientific development of the nation through the collection, preservation and dissemination of library materials. Throughout its history, the library has functioned as a developing space for providing the Slovenian nation with spiritual wealth and encouraging the creation of new knowledge. To this day, the library has always been one of the most important central cultural and educational institutions in the Slovenian territory. First the Lyceum Library, then the Imperial-Royal Study Library, the State Study Library, the University Library, and today the National and University Library have written a story of continuous care for users and materials: from the first days of its opening, when the library received only fourteen readers per day, to contemporary times, when NUK welcomes 250,000 visitors and users annually.

In its story, the National and University Library stands out as a symbol of dedicated collection, expert organisation, responsible preservation and increased access to knowledge. Today, the collection accumulated over a quarter of a millennium consists of a fundamental national collection (Slovenika), a collection of basic study literature and a collection of special library materials. The care for this material is shared among librarianship experts, information science experts, conservators-restorers, public communicators, storage facility personnel and other library staff. Starting from the initial corpus of 637 books, important works by Slovenian and foreign authors were collected and made available in various ways, so that the library already contained more than 36,000 volumes at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, after 250 years, the collection numbers more than 3,000,000 units of material. These are not only in physical form, as more than one million units of digital items are available in the Digital Library of Slovenia, which is also administered by NUK.

Commemorating the anniversary of the library’s operation is a celebration of many beginnings, important decisions and a quarter of a millennium of conscientious work by the predecessors who paved the way to the present day. The library’s story is a reflection of historical events, of the materials in the collection, of librarians and their passion for books, of loyal users, and of numerous collaborations. It is also a reflection of the thoughts that have been and continue to be preserved in the National and University Library.



Preserving thoughts - for 250 years

(28 May–3 December 2024, Exhibition Hall, Foyer of the Great Reading Room, Plečnik’s Hallway)

The numerous beginnings, challenges, events and efforts that have accompanied the operation of NUK and its predecessors reveal a genuine mosaic of understanding, including what it means to collect, store, preserve and disseminate material, and to care for a range of publics: users, publishers, librarians and all of the visitors, lovers of books, culture and science. This mosaic of understanding leads to the solid values of our work, the future of fulfilling the library’s mission, and a grateful tribute to the story that began in the spirit of the Enlightenment some 250 years ago. It provides an answer to the question of what the National and University Library is and how we preserve thoughts.

The stories, documents, photographs, diverse materials and information included in the exhibition offer a historical cross-section and a presentation of the past and present activities of NUK, inviting visitors to stroll through the 250-year development of the library. Original treasures from our collection will be on display, materials that are of exceptional importance not only for our institution, but also for the cultural and scientific development of the entire nation. The exhibition is designed in two parts. The material exhibited from the opening until September will present the beginnings of the library and the collection of material. In the second part, we will present the diversity of the materials held in the library, as well as their organisation and preservation. Every month, we will present the most important materials in the NUK collection in a special showcase.

In the foyer of NUK’s Great Reading Room, we will present important events from our history. A fire, a plane crash, an earthquake, the arrival of important librarians, the purchase of the Kopitar collection, the organisation of the first course for librarians, the launch of the Digital Library of Slovenia, and the preparation of the Freising Manuscripts exhibition may appear to be just arbitrarily selected milestones in the history of NUK, but the stories they tell shed significant light on the role and development of the central Slovenian library.

Preserving thoughts at the Krakow Embankment

(16 May–18 June 2024, Krakow Embankment, Ljubljana)

Črko-slika NUK (Letter-Picture NUK, Exhibition by the students of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering UL)

(23 May–3 December 2024, NUK Cafe)


Dediščina prihodnosti (Heritage of the future)

(4 April 2024, University of Ljubljana Assembly Hall)

Formal opening of the Exhibition and celebration on the 250th anniversary of the National and university library

(28 Maj 2024, Main Reading Room, NUK)

Welcome home! (Dobrodošli doma!)

(26 June 2024, Matica and NUK)

TPDL Congress

(24–27 September 2024)

Open Day (Dan odprtih vrat)

(3 December 2024)

250 treasures for 250 years

Over a quarter of a millennium, the collection of the National and University Library has grown from the initial 637 books to more than three million items: books, periodicals, leaflets, manuscripts, multimedia materials and grey literature. Today, it represents the fundamental collection of the written cultural and scientific heritage of the Slovenian nation, preserving not only the most valuable and unique documents, but also other materials that testify to the creativity and identity of the Slovenian people. On the occasion of our 250th anniversary, we have selected 250 unique and diverse treasures that highlight the wealth of our library collection and reveal how the story of our central library is intertwined with the story of the Slovenian nation.


The project is part of the NUK programme funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

logotip Ministrstva za kulturo



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