Living Knowledge blog

01 June 2020

Explore the British Library from your home

British Library through the porthole


As a web editor here at the BL, I’m normally in my element with my head buried deep in digital content from all corners of the Library.

Two months into working from home, though, and I’m really missing the BL buzz. The soothing sounds of pages turning – minds working – in our Reading Rooms. Turning a corner and bumping into the Magna Carta. The coffee.

If you’re feeling the same, here are my top picks for exploring our collections, exhibitions and buildings, and even meeting our crew – without leaving your front door.

Whether you're in need of a culture fix, scratching your head for research inspiration, or simply want to get lost in the virtual stacks, we’ve got something for you.


Continue your research remotely

Missing our Reading Rooms? We’ve put together this guide to help you explore our collection. Find out what content we have available online and who can you speak to about your research. 


Keep little ones entertained

Children's book illustrations

Tailored to the national curriculum, these learning activities on our new Discovering Children’s Books website will get children creating in no time. Star in your own comic, form an imaginary school and create your own talking animal. Don't forget to tweet us their masterpieces! 


Travel the world while in lockdown

You may be holed up in your home but you can still don your explorer hat and travel the globe. We’ve digitised a whole range of globes from the 17–18th centuries for virtual exploration. Spin them. Zoom in on them. Share them. There’s even an augmented reality function (available on phone or tablet via Sketchfab) so you can bring them to life in your living room. 


Explore the building

3D model of British Library

Our doors may be closed but you can still explore the building. Tour the Library from your home and learn about the design and architecture of our Grade I listed building, the artwork hidden in its nooks and crannies and what goes on behind the scenes. Ever noticed the fossils buried in our courtyard? Or that our building actually resembles a ship? Take a peek inside. Or if you’d prefer a pixelated stroll through the Library, try our retro Bitsy British Library Simulator.


Sound holiday

Getting bored of the sound of your kettle boiling? Replace it with bird song. Our Sounds Archive features recordings from all over the world and covers everything from music, drama and literature to oral history, accents and, yes, even bird sounds too.


Experience our virtual books

You’ve got our greatest treasures at your fingertips: Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, the original Alice's Adventures Under Ground manuscript, early works from Jane Austen, and more. Leaf through the pages. Magnify the details and get lost in other worlds.


Listen to our podcast

Buzzing, creative, brave. Libraries don’t just keep our stories safe; they’re where new stories begin. Our Anything But Silent podcast takes you from war-torn Syria to Glastonbury and beyond. One for all library lovers. 


Visit an online exhibition

Relive the key moments from our exhibitions with access to collection items, curators’ articles and videos. Whether you’re an Anglo-Saxons boffin or want to learn more about the Windrush scandal, you’ll find something thought-provoking among our virtual exhibits. 


Inspiring imagery on Flickr

"London (illustrated) . A complete guide to the leading hotels, places of amusement ... Also a directory ... of first-class reliable houses in the various branches of trade"

With access to thousands of rights-free images from our collections (all available for download), the opportunities to be creative are endless. Many of our researchers, particularly from the art, design and fashion worlds, have had eureka moments browsing our albums.


Keep up to date on our blogs and digital channels

Hear what our curators are getting up to under quarantine in our blogs, or watch our Curators on Camera series to hear about their favourite objects from our exhibitions. And if you’d like further insight into goings-on at the Library, we have plenty more fascinating videos on our YouTube channel.

For all our latest news, updates and other highlights, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Elliot Sinclair

Web Editor