The Warburg Institute Library holds a collection of international importance in the humanities. Its 360,000 volumes make it the largest collection in the world focused on Renaissance studies and the history of the classical tradition.

Whilst the Library itself is currently closed our Librarians would like to highlight the online resources that are available to readers at home. From online research guides to our digital library, find out more about the resources in this blog post.

The building may be closed, but the librarians are still hard at work developing new resources online.

Over the last five years, we have been working on the Warburg Library Online, a strategy to bring our digital initiatives and resources together.

Since 2000, the library has pioneered digitising books in a series of interconnected projects. Many of these digitised books were added to the catalogue and remain accessible there, including out of print books published by the Institute. In addition, up to 13% of the Photographic Collection has been digitised on the Iconographic Database.

Since 2013, we have formalised our digital projects into the Warburg Library Online, which includes the following:

  • We have published an electronic description of the library classification system. The classification is a unique way of giving access to digital and digitised material. Readers can now easily use the classification keywords to search through our databases and repositories, and browse our collections exactly as if they were standing in the stacks.
  • We have created a new digital library for digitised book collections in the public domain. It currently hosts a collection of opera libretti and up to 500 items from Aby Warburg’s ‘Magic and Science’ collection which are now out of copyright. This project uses Islandora software, an open-source software for digital assets, which is in keeping with international best practice. All digitisations are in full colour and captured in high-quality images. The metadata conforms to established standards from the library community to ensure its interoperability. We have already shared our metadata with the Getty Research Portal so that our records are visible from there.
  • We have created an open repository, Warburg Commons. This project uses another best practice software, Samvera/Hyrax, for open access repositories. The repository is organised according to the same classification system as the rest of the collection. A Warburg classmark can be added to each digitised book, maintaining the practises we use to add printed offprints in the physical library. The repository can also be browsed by theme, continuing the library’s famous open shelf arrangement in virtual form.
    • Scholars can deposit their research in the repository in the same way that they can add their work in their institutional or national open repositories. We welcome all deposits for already published material, please contact or visit the link above to sign up for an account.
  • We have developed online research guides using Springshare Libguides, a popular library software for providing in-depth guides for the subject fields that are strong in the library and Institute (for instance, history of art, history of philosophy). It has a dynamic page to display the library databases and electronic collections, making our electronic resources more accessible. All online versions of our journal holdings have been added to our periodicals guide.
  • We are working on using Sierra Innovative Encore, a library catalogue ‘discovery layer’ that acts like a search engine, to enable simultaneous searching across our digital projects and the library catalogue. An early version is accessible through this link. Our current catalogue metadata is shared with the JISC Library Hub Discover Union catalogue and the Art Discovery Net catalogue.

With the temporary closure of the Warburg Institute Building, this project has taken on an even greater significance. We would never have imagined how we have been able to further expand the library into the digital sphere.

Introduction to the Warburg Institute Library

While the physical library is inaccessible, you can still explore our collections using a range of resources. Watch a new video tour below presenting the library collections.

Warburg Virtual Library ArtSteps

Explore a short virtual exhibition of material featured in the video above in this guided tour created by library staff using ArtSteps.

Image from the Warburg Virtual Library ArtSteps exhibition

Warburg Library classification system

Below you can watch a playlist of a series of videos on the classification system by theme, starting with a general introduction and moving through Image, Word, Orientation and Action.

360 Degree Photographic tour of the library

For those of you nostalgic for the building itself, you could always walk through the stacks on the 360 degree photographic tour of the library on Google Maps.

Image from the 360 degree tour of the Warburg library on Google Maps

The Warburg Library social media channels

Many highlights, and more unusual insights, into our collections, can be found on our Facebook and Twitter.

Please contact us for more information on any of these projects at

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