Whilst we are spending more time at home than usual we want to share with you the Warburg community’s recommendations for things to do. From podcasts to recommended reading, in this new blog series ‘Warburg Institute Recommends’, we’ll be sharing what our staff, fellows and students are getting up to.

In this second post, we hear from some of our Library staff: Clare, Richard and Nessa.

If after persuing through these tips you’re in need of more content, you can read even more recommendations in this post from our fellows. There is also a range of online content available for you to delve into on the Warburg Virtual Community pages.


You’re Dead To Me

warburg institute recommends you're dead to me

As big Horrible Histories fans, my kids and I love this podcast hosted by Horrible Histories’ historical adviser/chief nerd, Greg Jenner. Aimed at adults but also great for older kids, You’re Dead To Me pairs comedians with academics to explore different historical figures and themes. It’s billed as history for people who don’t like history, but it also works brilliantly as light relief for those who thought they already knew it all. We really enjoyed learning about Lord Byron’s pet bear and the baffling iconography of Victorian Christmas cards. Clare

Composer of the Week

warburg institute recommends image of a composer

I find Radio 3’s Composer of the Week series on BBC Sounds app a fine way to relax while learning something new. The presenter Donald McLeod always offers new insights even into composers I know well and plenty of time is devoted to the music itself which is always therapeutic in lockdown. Richard

RTE Re:Joyce Ulysses broadcast/podcast

This year for Bloomsday, RTÉ transmitted 29 hours of dramatised readings of James Joyce’s novel. The story of ordinary Dubliners Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus as they move around the city in a single day, this is an evocative production of the book’s experiments in sound and language, recorded in 1982. ‘Episodes’ are available on RTE, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Ulysses fits under Warburg Library classmark NEH Transmission of literature – Mythographers. Nessa

Recommended Reading

Pandemic Poems

Not so much recommended reading as recommended listening. I’ve found that I haven’t had the time or headspace recently to sink deeply into books, but poems are just the right length to really focus on and appreciate. Searching for a frustratingly misremembered poem, I stumbled over this growing audio collection pulled together by the actor Samuel West. The poems are read sympathetically and are perfect to listen to whilst doing the washing up. Clare

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou

The few books I have been able to stick with have been familiar comfort reads. I love Montaillou for its insights into every detail of daily life in an Occitan village of the early 14th century. It’s a book that manages to feel both intimate and personal, and at the same time like a blockbuster full-colour cinemascope epic. 2020 may be bad, but at least we’re spared Montaillou’s inquisitorial persecution, unending back-breaking labour and the need to groom each other for lice. Clare

Michael Tippett: The Biography by Oliver Soden

An excellent and highly readable biography of the greatest composer (in my humble opinion) that his country has produced since Henry Purcell.  Although Soden provides the caveat that this is definitely a ‘life’ rather than ‘life and works’ it provides a very approachable introduction to Tippett’s finest works. Richard

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson has a gift for creating narratives of great ingenuity, which could almost be called experimental for their formal brilliance if it were not for the precision of her prose, her rich characterisation and her emotional intelligence. This is one of her finest that follows her resilient heroine through the travails of multiple births and deaths against the backdrop of twentieth-century history. Richard

Recursion by Blake Crouch

I’m not much of a science fiction fan but this is a very intelligent, literate and absorbing thriller. It is one of the few books I’ve read recently which kept me up at night wanting to know the next twist and turn in its ingenious narrative. Unlike many sci-fi writers I’ve come across, Crouch expends some effort on creating convincing characters with an emotional core to them. Richard

Food and History journal

We have 10 years of digital issues of this journal through Brepols publishers, and it’s interesting to read in the context of lockdown, where there has been so much discussion on food supply, home cooking, and the future of eating out. Articles cover international food and culture from the ancient to the modern periods, including a special issue on chocolate, the story of how espresso became Italian, and ‘exotic’ foods and colonialism in interwar France. Nessa


Warburg Library Twitter feed

warburg institute recommends Warburg Library Twitter

Putting together a lockdown video introduction to the library with no access to the collections meant that I relied hugely upon the photos from our Twitter account. It was well worth combing through the archives. Credit goes to Nessa and our wonderful trainees past and present – David, Chris, Argula, Lexi, Anna, Annika, Manuela, Friederike, Alex and Celia – who have uncovered so many fascinating texts and images in the library over the years. Clare

Warburg Digital Library

The Warburg Digital Library is our growing collection of digitised books from the Library’s collections. Its primary collection is of books on Magic and Science from the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, an invaluable insight into Warburg’s interests. Try looking, for instance, at the Calendrier Magique from 1895 for one of its more colourful holdings. Richard

The Programming Historian

The Programming Historian has many digital methodologies tutorials for humanists, including practical and fun programming language tutorials. Nessa

Online virtual exhibitions/museums

George Washington Wilson: Queen Victoria’s Photographer in Scotland (University of Aberdeen Special Collections)

George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) is my hometown’s most famous photographer. He is perhaps best known as Queen Victoria’s official photographer at Balmoral, capturing not just Victoria herself but also her family and retinue. His Balmoral plates feature some truly extravagant sporrans, but personally, I find his panoramic photographs of 19th century Aberdeen and London much more interesting. All of G.W. Wilson & Co’s glass negatives have been digitised by the University of Aberdeen’s Sir Duncan Rice Library and are available to view online. Clare

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

warburg institute recommends animal crossing

In this video game, your character moves to a deserted island, where you can chat with your anthropomorphic animal neighbours, design clothes and gardens, expand your property portfolio and turnip stocks. Creating a museum and art gallery is one enjoyable task. Your character can purchase ‘real’ and ‘counterfeit’ works of art (recognisable masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leonardo etc) from a smuggler (a fox) who deals from his pirate ship. You then bring them to the museum for verification by an enthusiastic curator (an owl with a monocle). Nessa

Online events

Reconsidering Illness and Recovery in the Early Modern World

If you haven’t already had enough of illness in 2020, this online conference in August promises papers from John Henderson (Birkbeck) on the Great Pox in Renaissance Italy and Hannah Newton (University of Reading) on the experience of illness in Early Modern England. Clare

UCL Rare Books Club

warburg institute recommends rare books club

One of our former colleagues, Tabitha Tuckett, now organises the UCL Rare Books Club. Held as informal drop-in sessions over summer lunchtimes (but online only this year), the meetings aim to highlight the breadth of UCL’s Special Collections and allow for connections and conversations between librarians, students and professional researchers. Clare

London Rare Books School Online

In the absence of this year’s London Rare Books School, over the course of three weeks, the Institute of English Studies will be sharing a range of blogs and online content.

Tips for maintaining productivity whilst working from home


My only tip is to get outdoors whenever you can. Exploring our local area has been really interesting and we’ve even spotted ghost signs we’d never noticed before (www.ghostsigns.co.uk is good on these).


  • Be strict about timetabling your work so that it does not stretch into your leisure time.
  • Be sure to take breaks during which you distract yourself fully from your work – I’m quite fond on watching a video of an orchestral performance on YouTube for this.
  • Eat well – have a proper lunch break away from your computer or laptop.


  • All-day screens are drying on the eyes. Eyedrops, as well as eye masks you can warm in a microwave, can be helpful.
  • The Pomodoro Technique helps concentration.
  • The Pilates ‘rest position’ is good for relaxing the lower back after a long period of sitting in a chair

More online content recommendations

Baumgartner Restoration

Chicago-based art conservator Julian Baumgartner records and explains every slow and painstaking step of his fine art conservation projects for his YouTube channel. Unstintingly detailed and beautifully filmed, I find the videos both fascinating and immensely calming – perfect lockdown viewing. Clare

The NYT British/Irish dialect quiz

This quiz can pin you down to your hometown within minutes based purely on the word you use for a woodlouse (it’s a slater, obviously) and seems to give freakishly accurate results every time. Clare

Online Opera

For opera fans, there are extensive resources which are free of charge to access. The Metropolitan Opera in New York offers a daily stream from its extensive library of performances: these have included its complete Ring Cycle and its excellent production of Alban Berg’s Lulu. Another excellent site is Operavision, a streaming service of productions from some of Europe’s best opera houses: at the moment it offers Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Dvorak’s Rusalka and Britten’s Billy Budd. Richard


For something completely different, those with an interest in astronomy might like to try out the online planetarium Stellarium . It’s available as a web version or a download, the latter of which allows you to see the sky at any date, time and place in history. Set it, for instance to 3 May 1715 at 9.35am to relive the last total eclipse seen in London, or to the next one, a rather long wait of 1,011 years since the last, on 21 July 2726 at 11.34am. Let’s hope it’s not cloudy. Richard

Ableton Music and synthesiser lessons

Ableton Live is music production software, mostly used for electronic music. They’re offering a 90 day trial, and two free browser based modules in ‘Learning Music’ and ‘Learning Synths’, with inbrowser players. Nessa

Trades Union Congress

The Trades Union Congress offers free resources on workers rights and COVID-19. Nessa

> Read recommendations from some of our Fellows

> Discover more online content on the Warburg Virtual Community pages

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