Meet the Face with Devon and Exeter Institution

• Ceri McWilliams: Administrator
• Emma Dunn: Director of Programme and Projects
• Emma Laws: Director of Collections and Research
• Carol Anderson: Digitisation co-ordinator

You would be forgiven for walking past this beautiful, untouched library in the heart of the city without knowing it was there. The Devon and Exeter Institution opened its doors in 1813 and is unchanged from its original form, except for the installation of electric lighting and gas central heating. The Institution was founded over 200 years ago as a place to promote science, literature and the arts, as well as illustrate the natural and civil history of Devon and the history of the city of Exeter. In 2020 this aim is still very much part of what the Devon and Exeter Institution strives for.

The Independent Library and Educational Charity holds over 35,000 volumes, including bound volumes of local newspapers and many thousands of illustrations, prints and pamphlets which are now being digitised and will be available via the institution’s website. Housed in its original setting, the collection includes works on science, natural history, art, religion and history.

Not only is the Devon and Exeter Institution home to many wonderful books but it has a diverse programme of events and activities for all ages. In order to welcome the younger generation and drive the junior membership, Bookworms was introduced. For ages five to eight, Bookworms is an educational experience which takes place within the Outer Library on the third Saturday of each month. Director of Programme, Emma Dunn commented, “Bookworms helps to introduce younger people into the fascinating world of the Institution. There are so many amazing stories within these walls just waiting to be shared and we love being able to welcome people of all ages in to learn about them.”

Emma continues, “it is wonderful working at this historic Institution. This library has been passed down through generations of people and we are a part of that now and it is so important that we keep younger people interested in what we are doing and what goes on behind these doors. We have an extensive programme of activities inspired by our collection and building. From academic lectures to creative activities for families, we hope there is something for everyone.”

With over 750 members ranging from ages five to 80 +, this fascinating space is one to be cherished by both young and old. For more information on how to become a member, visit

Devon and Exeter Institution
7 Cathedral Close
Exeter EX1 1EZ
General enquiries: 01392 274727
Library enquiries: 01392 251017
Opening hours are Monday – Friday 9.30am -5.00pm and on Saturdays 10.00am- 4.00pm
(Open for public tours on Wednesday afternoons form 1pm – 4pm)

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