Discovering hidden gems

"This is the web at its most enlightening." Michael Morpurgo

The British Library is pleased to announce the official launch of its new website for learners at

The website is devoted to promoting the wonders of the book, and to opening up the mysterious and magical qualities of the library's collection.

You'll be able to browse a treasure trove of fascinating texts and images: from medieval banquet menus to ancient Iranian myths, from 18th century ships' logs to Russian Constructivist book covers, from Victorian freak show posters to WWII maps. There are over a thousand texts on the site, as well as wonderful audio recordings from the Sound archive, and a range of multimedia elements. The site is divided into six themed sections, making navigation easy and enjoyable. The material should provide myriad opportunities for personalised learning, individual research projects and classroom activity.

To celebrate the launch, the British Library invited a variety of personalities and celebrities with interests in areas such as literature, education and culture to review the website and describe their experience. You can read their comments below, or find out more in our press release.


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Michael Morpurgo: "This is the web at its most enlightening. There can rarely have been a more potent invitation to acquire a greater understanding and appreciation of our culture.   At our finger tips we can now tap into new knowledge, presented to us in a way so enticing that we simply want more. The British Library has flung open its doors in a quite marvellous way to all and sundry. As one of the sundry, I say 'Bravo! Bravo!"


Terry Gilliam: "In years past I would rush out to the National Gallery whenever I ran out of ideas and needed inspiration, now I can just click on to the British Library Learning website, wake my brain up, and avoid the rain. I never cease to be amazed at how much more there is to learn. ...and the website won't let me forget. It's beautifully and simply laid out...luring me into areas of knowledge in which I had no previousinterest. You don't have to be young to be stimulated by the goodies available on the website."


Griff Rhys Jones: "How tremendously exciting that there is something to explore here. It's a resource with no limits. You make of it what you can. You are the adventurer. You are the traveller. It is surely one of the wonders of the world that you can have such easy, pain-free access to this stuff. What a treat. If you are looking for someone to trumpet it, I will happily do that and more. I hope everybody at every school everywhere in Britain can be guided to this astounding adventure."


Andrew Motion: "The British Library's Learning Website is a wonderfully rich and wide-ranging resource, and will have an especial value for teachers and students. It's clearly designed, easy to navigate, contains an extraordinary wealth of information - and provides ready access to many of the Library's treasures. For all these reasons, users will find it equally valuable as a source and a stimulation."


Tony Robinson: "It's always fascinating to unearth the kind of everyday, forgotten texts that are so much a part of our cultural history - the recipes, logbooks, letters, posters and the like. I'm delighted that the British Library's new Learning website gives text-archeologists around the world access to so much fantastically interesting material."


Tim Shortis, Chief Examiner, AQA B English Language A' Level: "Over time digitization of old texts will unchain the British Library's treasures making them available to a wider, even infinite web audience. All this takes more canny mediation and design than easy talk about putting all the world's texts online. The British Library Learning site shows in a magnificent way how users can explore the richness of language over time without getting lost and confused by infoglut. With its coherently grouped texts interleaved with activities and commentaries, students of all ages are free to follow new lines of enquiry based on primary sources not available to them before. The rest of the world can go on a time travel journey of serendipitous pleasure seeing for themselves texts usually known only by second hand references."


Victoria Glendinning: "This is fantastic news for students and their teachers, as well as for all researchers and the intellectually curious. We'll all be using it. It's the proper democratising of the British Library - up till now, I've felt, a rather formidable and not easily accessible resource."


David Lammy, Minister for Culture: "The British Library's new Learning website encourages young people to research and be inspired by the diversity of ideas and cultures that have shaped, and continue to shape, our world. Through its schools programmes at St Pancras in London and its activities online, the British Library plays an important role in helping young people participate in our cultural heritage. I am pleased that that site continues to open up the Library's collections to a wider and younger audience."


Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, Andrew Adonis:

"I'm delighted to see that the British Library offers exciting activities and resources for learners of all ages and for teachers. I hope the learning website will inspire young people to read more widely and help them to develop their research skills. It will help to enrich the 14 - 19 curriculum in key subject areas and strengthen the connection between schools and colleges and the British Library. Such connections are important in supporting excellence and innovation in education."