Return to Rightful Owner

Eva Olthof’s book takes as its starting point the American Memorial Library in Berlin (Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek), which opened in 1954, seven years before the building of The Berlin Wall, and two books, which were returned after 50 years, accompanied by a handwritten personal letter found in the library's archive. The library was a gift from the American people to the population of West Berlin after enduring the Berlin Blockade, promoting the “illimitable freedom of the human mind”, as it reads in a quote by US President Thomas Jefferson engraved in the library’s wall.

The book brings together the charged political history of this library, and the events connected to the revelations of NSA files by Edward Snowden; posing questions about surveillance and privacy of reading, and collective memory and individual lived experience in relation to recording faculties of power - like libraries - in the present and the past.

Onomatopee 116

Photography: Eva Olthof
Text: Eva Olthof, Doreen Mende, Eben Moglen
Design: Stefano Faoro
Advice: Steven ten Thije
Printer: Lecturis, Eindhoven

Published: April 2015

This project originated during a four months work period at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin December 2013 - March 2014

Generously supported by:
Mondriaan Fund
Stiching Niemeijer Fonds
Stichting Bekker-la Bastide-Fonds
Stichting Harten Fonds

The publication can be ordered through: