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Oslo kommune, Norway

Forest of the Future Library

One thousand trees were planted in a Norwegian forest to be used to make paper for books set to be printed a hundred years from now.  

The fate of physical books may seem tenuous, but at least 1,000 copies of 100 different books are set to be printed roughly a century from now, in the year 2114. Indeed, the trees that will be used to make the printing paper have already been planted.

These saplings were planted for the Future Library, a forward-looking art project that’s one part literary time capsule, one part environmental statement. The project, launched in 2014, plans to commission one book from a different author each year for 100 years, none of which will be published until 2114. 

The stories will be printed on paper made from the 1,000 trees planted in Nordmarka, a forest just north of Oslo. Until then, the manuscripts will be kept on the top floor of the Deichman Library in Oslo, in a space called the “Silent Room.” They will be on display but not made available to read for generations to come, meaning most of us won’t ever get the chance.

The Silent Room, set to open in 2019, will be made from the wood that was cleared from the Nordmarka forest to make room for the new trees. The room will only be big enough for a few visitors at a time, and will offer a view of the growing forest off in the distance.

Scottish artist Katie Paterson, who conceived of the Future Library project, often uses time and nature for her art. Past projects include mapping dead stars, sending a meteorite back into space, and live broadcasting sounds made by a melting glacier.

Paterson knows she will probably not see the finished product of her century-long project, however she plans to attend the Handover Ceremony as long as she can. At the ceremony, held each spring, the author selected for that year’s text holds a reading in the future forest before delivering the manuscript. The first author to participate was, perhaps fittingly, the popular dystopian fiction author Margaret Atwood. Her 2014 novel, Scribbler Moon, has never been read. The next year was Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, who contributed a book titled From Me Flows What You Call Time. Next up is Icelandic writer Sjón.

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