The "Secret Bench" can be seen in many places throughout the world. Some of these places are: Ottawa, Ontario in front of the National Archives of Canada; Toronto, Ontario in front of the Professional Engineers Building on Young Street; New York, New York at 825 Fifth Avenue; Montreal, Quebec at McGill University; London, England outside the London Stock Exchange; Bonita Springs, Florida, USA. Each bench is uniquely inscribed by famous poets and writers from around the world.
"The Secret Bench of Knowledge" that is located at the entrance to the Wellington Street Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa was laid at about 9 o'clock in the evening, in early May 1989, when sculptress Lea Vivot placed her work, Secret Bench, Lost Paradise, in front of the building. When people arrived for work the next morning, they were delighted to see the new addition and assumed that it had been put there by another government department.
Not so. Lea Vivot had decided on her own to lend the sculpture to the National Library. Here is what she had to say in an interview published in the Ottawa Citizen: "The building needed something and I don't feel that artists have the time to go through the bureaucratic approach. In the same amount of time that it would take to go through all this (bureaucracy) I can cast another sculpture and enhance another space."
A year later the artist took it back with a promise to provide the National Library with another casting of her sculpture. After four years had passed the promise was fulfilled. At about 9 AM on the morning of May 1, 1994, in front of a crowd of about 3000 people, the new "Secret Bench" was unveiled. The new sculpture included many messages that the original did not have. Entries were solicited from school children and writers across Canada for the new casting. Engraved on the bench are approximately one hundred messages about the pleasure and importance of reading chosen from the entries received. Those who were selected were sent a wax mold on which to inscribe their message for the bench. The molds were then returned and used in the new casting . The unveiling of the new statue was done by Lea Vivot, and assisted by a young blind boy named Gabriel McBride, from Spruce View, Alberta, who inscribed his message in Braille.
The sculpture has become one of Ottawa's most popular photographic subjects. Every day, cars stop in front of the Library and Archives of Canada and passengers climb out eagerly to have their pictures taken on this already-famous bench.