Future Library

A case for culture – Future Library

In Oslo, a new forest is growing. And in 100 years, it will become an anthology of books. Anne Beate Hovind, Project Director at Bjørvika Utvikling, got in touch with us one late evening in May 2015. Would we consider helping out on a project that might give Oslo the right attention?

Scottish artist Katie Paterson has launched a 100-year artwork – «Future Library» – for the city of Oslo. She has planted a thousand trees in Oslo’s Nordmarka forest, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed – a hundred years from now. Each year, one writer will contribute a text, with the work held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

The manuscripts will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the New Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2019

We do not know if people still inhabit our planet in 100 years (have we managed to destroy it?). We do not know if people still read books. What words will have died? Will libraries exist? All we know, is that you and I will not be present.

The prizewinning author, poet, and essayist Margaret Atwood was named as the first writer to contribute to the project. On May 26th 2015 she handed over the manuscript at a handover event in the wood, followed by interviews in the library.

Is it on brand?

A library. Books. The forest. A 75-year-old author. A hundred years from now. Can this really be on brand for Oslo? As far as our vision is concerned, it really holds the same positive perspective; the best is yet to come.


Does it live our values?

  • Pioneering: you bet.
  • Enriching: Yes, enriching peoples’ lives both today
    and for a very long time.
  • Real? It can’t be much more real than this.


The next step is to consider if we can act on our strategies:

Digital pioneers: We wanted the world to be able to participate in the handover event, both physical and digital. Periscope was launched in February 2015 and none of us had any experience with it, but it helped us broadcast to the world.  It links well to Twitter, and with Margaret Atwood’s more than 800.000 followers – the word got around. In the conversation between Atwood and Paterson in the Library, we also did an interactive book signing through LongPen.

We embedded Oslo in the hashtag: #futurelibraryoslo, to make sure Oslo was also recognized.

The digital footprint

In less than two weeks, between 26 May and 8 June 2015, we reached almost 107 million people worldwide through social media (blogs, videos, Twitter, Instagram).  International editorial coverage reached 4 million people, and The New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, CTV News, The Observer, Argentina Star, Aktif Medya, and The Post Internazionale are a few examples.

Art can be a wonderful catalyst for place brand management, but you have to treat it with respect, and you have to find a way to involve the world. The art project in itself did not need a brand strategy, but Oslo was very lucky to be the host, and we got the world’s attention. For the next 100 years.

What will future authors write? Only lucky future generations will be able to find out. But we are absolutely certain that it will be remarkable.