Joyful Things

Those of us lucky enough to have internet access during these strange times have been gifted with lots of fabulous online content from organisations and places that we might not otherwise get to visit or see or hear because they are too far away, or too expensive.

So, if you’ve joined us on our #StillSeeingThings adventures, followed the Twitter Takeovers by GWL staff and volunteers, entered the Bower of Bliss and you’ve eaten your fill at our Book Picnic, here are some non-GWL treats to enjoy.


We’re all missing GWL, but here are some other library collections  you can explore online. Or enjoy virtual visits to 8 of the world’s other great libraries. And for those online meetings we’re having, how about some library themed backgrounds.

Amazing Architecture

Vertical panoramic views of church ceilings, which are really quite lovely. And some beautiful underground stations  (hint: none of them are in Glasgow!)

Writers and Writing

The Celebrity Lecture Series from Michigan State University features audio lectures from inspirational writers such as Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan and Isabel Allende. And if you’re missing Story Café and enjoy being read to, Helen Mirren recites a Shakespeare sonnet, Dolly Parton reads children’s books. And Elaine C Smith reads The Glasgow Gruffalo.

Museums and Galleries

Virtual tours a-plenty, including Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum,  Brazil’s National Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum. You can even walk inside a Salvador Dali painting, discover art from museums and galleries across the UK  or tour street art in cities across  the world. And The Art Institute of Chicago has 44 thousand works online in really high resolution so you can zoom in on them, while the Guggenheim has 200 free online and downloadable books for modern art lovers.

Animals and Nature

Here’s a list of animal cams to enjoy. More live animal cams here, including Great Dane puppies, honey bees, donkeys and gorillas. And some amazing 360 degree virtual tours of some of America’s National Parks. To relax, here are virtual tours of five beautiful gardens. And another one, the world’s biggest flower garden – the Keukenhof in the Netherlands – by drone. And for those who are feeling virtually energetic, here’s a hike along the Great Wall of China.

Thrills and Spills

This is the Yukon Striker Roller Coaster, which I found strangely relaxing. Also, videos of Disney rides.


For those who like opera, the Vienna State Opera has just the thing. If musicals are more your genre, here are Broadway World’s Living Room Concerts, featuring songs sung by Broadway actors. And the Montreux Jazz Festival has released more than 50 full sets with performances from loads of fantastic acts including Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, Alannis Morisette, Sonic Youth and The Cure.

Film, Theatre and Performance

The International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam has made a lot of its films available internationally, Sadlers Wells Digital Stage has performances and workshops  (including one for the over 60s which will be about my speed, I hope), and Broadway World have a list of 157 musicals you can watch, although not all of these are free. Oh, and the Social Distancing Festival has not only music but dance, art, spoken word, theatre, puppetry, clowns and much, much more.

For Children (big and small)

Disney Parks have released performances on YouTube. Here’s a Harry Potter Escape Room. And some crafting ideas – I love the look of branch weaving. Stages Theatre Company have virtual theatre activities for age 18 months to 18 years, designed to get bodies, voices and imaginations moving and creating.  And here are some At Home Storytime Guides for children from the New York Public Library.

Health and Fitness

The YMCA has launched 60 free online classes, including Yoga and Tai Chi. And, speaking of Yoga, here’s Yoga with Adriene, from beginners to beyond advanced. 

Oddities and Strange Things

The Winchester Mystery House is offering a free online tour. For those who haven’t heard of it before, it was built by Sarah Winchester over many years, starting from the 1880s. She decided she had to continuously build a home for herself and the spirits of people who had fallen victim to Winchester Rifles so that they wouldn’t haunt her. She kept on building rooms, along with staircases that don’t go anywhere, doors that open onto a blank wall and secret passages. There are about 160 rooms, but they’re still finding new ones.

I’ve spent hours delving into this lovely site, which has over 500 words in different languages that don’t translate into any other language. I’m sure we’ve all experienced Age-otori (Japanese – The bad feeling one gets after a terrible haircut). And definitely, at the moment, there’s a feeling of Kenopsia (English – The eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet). And we all know that GWL is  Rè nào (熱鬧) (Chinese –  Not only fun and lively, but also has a special vibe that makes everyone want to be there). My favourite so far: Harkla (Swedish -The little coughing noise one makes, often before giving a speech or dislodging a piece of cinnamon bun from their throat.). Quite specific that one! You can search by country or word, or you can just refresh the page to get more.

Here’s a virtual tour of the Paris Catacombs. It might not be to everyone’s taste and it’s a bit travel sickness inducing, but it’s quite beautiful and haunting.

Online Courses

The Open University has tons of free courses which you can do any time.

FutureLearn has courses from loads of different universities all over the world, covering literature, history, nature and the environment, law, languages…the list is endless. Most of them have a free option. The courses have set start dates. If one has started you can usually join at any time afterwards, and get access for a number of weeks after it’s finished, although there are discussions while the course is going on so they suggest you join as close to the start as possible. This is how it works. Here’s one from the University of Strathclyde called Gender Representation in the Media (7 weeks course, 4 hours a week). Or Understanding Diversity and Inclusion from Purdue University  (3 week course, 3 hours a week study). And here’s one called Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today, which starts on 1st June, runs for 4 weeks, with online content equal to 5 hours study a week.

I hope you’ll enjoy some of these. And do leave a comment if you want to share other digital content that you have been enjoying.

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