Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

01 December 2020

The most popular British Library content of 2020

As we come to the close of the year we look back at some of our highlights and what we've published that our readers have loved most.

We are always intrigued to know which of our collection items are most frequently viewed on our website. The top five from this year, in reverse order were: the stunning painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, artist Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier's painting, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and finally, the most popular – by a country mile – was Beowulf

Meanwhile, our blogs brought you a rich mix of highlights and news from our collection. Three of our most read posts included the astonishing possessions of King Henry VIII (bespoke wardrobe collections, jewels, books, munitions, ships), the sounds you might have been missing under lockdown and unsurprisingly our thrilling work to digitise our Kings Topographical collection of maps and make it freely available to a global audience on Flickr. Lastly, they say the old ones are the best, and that certainly seems true of our Digitised Manuscripts blog that still seems to delight audiences with this Knight vs. Snail post from 2013.

We’re very grateful for the staggering 1.9 million Twitter followers who enjoy the regular encounters with the collection we publish. Our most popular posts this year say a lot about you and what you value in us. At number one is our Leonardo Da Vinci gif in which we reflected on the incredible achievements the human mind has been capable of throughout history. A close second was our conservation-themed riff on the ‘how it’s going meme’ that circulated in October:

Twitter How it is going

Our Instagram channel features some of our most visually stunning collection items, and unsurprisingly our most successful post was this miniature book made by Charlotte Bronte, part of our #collectionsunited campaign:

IG Collections United

And as everyone knows the internet is just wild about cats – as were our followers who enjoyed the ever present cat at our re-opening operations this summer:

IG - Int Cat Day

Our thank you post to those who visited us when we did re-open was another strong performer:

IG Re-opening thank you

And we ran a caption competition for the covers of our new Crime classics series, which captured peoples’ imaginations and sometimes drew unrepeatable suggestions:

IG Crime Classics Caption comp post

Jumping across to Facebook, the nature of our followers is reflected in the popularity of our International Kindness Day post in November:

FB Int Kindness Day post

Meanwhile this Axel Scheffler video, part of our Discovering Children's Books campaign, inspired families with imaginative activities for children during the first lockdown this summer.

It has been a busy year and we have dedicated it to bringing our collection to our readers, followers and users through all our digital channels while we've been apart from one another to stay safe. We hope you've enjoyed the fruits if our labour and we have so much more planned for 2021 - watch this space (or subscribe to our emails, follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter).   

Hannah Gabrielle, Head of Digital Engagement