Chile: Biblioteca Nacional


Santiago Day 4:   Started the day with a bit more culture..  at the Biblioteca Nacional one of the oldest institutions in Chile.IMG_1798 In August 1813 it was announced that a library would be established and citizens were invited to submit their books.  In 1820 a law was passed requiring all printers to  provide a copy of every book, magazine or newspaper published.  The regulation was updated in 1834 to the Law of Literary Property.

Construction of the current building started in 1913 and was completed in 1925.   It is French neoclassical style and the interior is gorgeously embellished and decorated with carved marble staircases, lovely leadlight glass, sculptures and paintings:.

There were two exhibitions happening in the grand hall.   One displayed artworks made from old library cards like this piece: IMG_6467a

and a large exhibition called: The Memory that Unites Us: An invitation to reconstruct the history of the National Library of Chile. It was set up on wooden grids to give the impression of an unfinished building and is meant to portray that the history of Chile continues to happen every day and is opened ended.  The exhibition examines the evolution of the country and the institution through publications and materials from the library’s own collection. .

The American room was stunning.   The library collection of famous bibliophile José Toribio Medina was donated to the National Library.  There are 33,000 titles including rare nautical, geographical and demographic books of discovery, dictionaries of indigenous languages as well as important historiographical, literary and scientific texts and they are all housed in this beautiful room..


The library also holds sets of works, manuscripts, photographs, unpublished works, personal belongings and sound recordings of Chilean writers including Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro and Joaquin Edwards Bello.  The library has an Oral Archive of Literature and Folklore of Chilean popular culture; songs, poetry, stories, folk religion, customs, cuisine and medicine.

I would’ve loved to have explored the library more as there were nooks & crannies we did not get to but it was time to head off to the next thing on my list.   We stopped to admire the statue of Diego Barros Arana (1830-1907) on the way past.  A writer, historian and politician he is considered by some to be the most important Chilean historian.  His main work is a 15 volume work spanning 300 years of Chilean history called:  Historia Jeneral de Chile.    IMG_6495





8 responses

  1. Wow…all that exquisite timber work….parquetry and the wood and glass doors in img 6493. Wonderful photographs as usual Emjay……and what a valuable collection of the country’s history.

  2. It looks like some anarchist has claimed Diego Barros Arana as a fellow traveler. I wonder why.

    Beautiful library, by the way. I wish our local central library would display its collection like Chile’s Biblioteca, but they’ve locked everything up in vaults and you need special permission to view the books and documents. Chile’s librarians apparently know how to make their building both beautiful and accessible.

    • I thought it was interesting how they started the library by inviting citizens to donate their books – I wonder if that was done now what sort of collections a library would get!

      I was in awe of the American Room – all those valuable old books just right there waiting to be touched! Even the globe was old – and no-where did I see any anti-theft devices, and no “guards” sitting around looking bored. Funny how used to that we’ve become in this country and how noticeable the absence in Chile was. It reminded me that there was probably once a time here when people did not try to steal anything not nailed down or guarded.

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