Regular visitors to libraries may be missing the the welcoming atmosphere, the smell of old books, and wandering around quiet shelves. Many of these public, private, and academic spaces have closed like lot of other institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, as lot of museums, libraries around the world have created immersive, 360-degree tours of their interiors. Simulations that can offer more than inspiring views of the libraries, which often they serve as interactive platforms that provide information about the their history and resources.
Recently, Harvard University’s Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library released an online, 360-degree tour in which vistors can gaze up at the skylights of the Loker Reading Room, wander through the lower-level stacks, and also examine the bookshelves. Along the tour, markers indicate an option to read historical details.
The virtual tour was conceptualized and commissioned by Harvard Library’s digital scholarship program manager Matt Cook and head of research services Reed Lowrie. Cook said their vision was to “provide an experience of the space and its historical information for those unable to enter physically.”
Some of these tours even allow online visitors to browse portions of massive collections. Until we can safely return to these institutions, Random Times’ collaborators has rounded up several other virtual libraries you can visit even from your home.
1 | The Klementinum library | Prague | Czech Republic |
This incredible baroque library was built in 1722 as part of a Jesuit university complex, and its ornate, magnificent interior has changed little over the centuries.
Step into its 360-degree tour to explore the shelves of theological literature beneath a ceiling of frescoes. In addition to housing more than 20,000 books, the library includes an unique collection of terrestrial and celestial globes. You can also explore nearby chambers, such as a public reading room flanked by massive oil frescoes and an observatory in the astronomical tower.
A must-see, if you are in Prague.
But why not start to explore it from your living-room?
2 | Admont Abbey Library | Admont | Austria |
Completed in 1776 the world’s largest monastic library is a clear example of late European Baroque architecture. Among the treasures in its 70-meters-long main hall are seven ceiling frescoes, two massive reliefs, and bookcases adorned with 68 gilded busts of scholars. Due to the pandemic, a virtual-reality version of this quaint space is now available online, accompanied by a multimedia presentation on its history.
This digital tour has an entry fee. With 1,49€ you can explore the main room and all its secret passageways, listen to audio guides, and also flip through a selection of digitized books.
But, our personal opinion, it’s worth it.
3 | Bókin Antikvariat | Reykjavik | Iceland |
Bókin Antikvariát is antique book store specializes in servicing Icelandic collectors and museums, and collectors and museums abroad. It was founded in 1964 and is a fixture of Reykjavik city life. If you enter, you notice the smell of old books, and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of books all over the place. But since we all have to stay home at the moment, you will have to settle for the virtual tour!
4 | King’s College Library at Cambridge University | Cambridge | England |
This cozy university library in Cambridge, England, was established in 1441 and house a notable collections of rare volumes including medieval manuscripts, incunabula – books printed during the earliest period of typography – and early printed books. Its second floor also houses the Rowe Music Library, a lending library of scores that is particularly rich in 18th-century English music. To wander the all-wood labyrinth of aisles and nooks in an online tour is suggestive, and the experience features also short biographies of scholars who left their mark on the college.
5 | Jerome Hall Law Library | Bloomington | Indiana |
A beautiful, five-story academic library in Bloomington that stores massive collections of legal materials for Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. You can explore around the massive interior in a virtual tour, which offers views of its reading room, marble and oak atrium, and more. Look at highlights such as hanging geometric sculptures by Morton Bradley and a special collection of signatures and historical documents from U.S. Supreme Court justices.
6 | A.K. Smiley Public Library | Redlands | California |
This small library in the city of Redlands is a registered California Historical Landmark and an architectural jewel. Built in 1898, it is designed in the Moorish Style and features red brick with hand-cut sandstone trimmings.
Wander through the historic building in this 360-degree tour to explore its vaulted ceilings, reading nooks, and beautiful stained glass windows, which depict symbols associated with libraries and learning. Look at the bookstore in the basement, where you can meet the mascot, Swimmy the fish, who is a card-carrying library member….
7 | New York Public Library |
Astor Hall, at the entrance, with its unique stone vault above an awesome white marble interior, sets the tone for the architectural delights that lie in store for the visitor. Sumptuous light brackets, elaborately decorated ceilings, the great gallery extending along the north-south axis of the building on the first floor, the window bays, the doorways, the great stairways, all combine to lift the human spirit and dignify man’s achievements. The elaborately decorated Main Reading Room, almost two city blocks in length, located at the top of the building for light and quiet, is a fitting climax to all that the architects wished to achieve.
8 | The Puratos Sourdough Library | St. Vith | Belgium |
Books? Why only books?
Founded in 2013 by the Belgian bakery supply company Puratos, this incredible collection of sourdough starters is the largest of its kind. Even if it is not open for public visits, you can virtually enter into its refrigerators, which collectively hold more than 100 blobs of yeast (and bacteria) laden flour in jars.
After hearing a brief introduction from its sole curator, Karl De Smedt, who travels the globe to acquire these glorious creations, you can check out short videos that illustrate varieties of yeast cultivated by bakers around the world, from Altamura, Italy, to San Francisco, United States.
A gem for those who are not satisfied only with books!