Curious Minds: Enjoy
A feast for the eyes and ears
Performances, lectures, virtual tours, audiobooks, essays and more.
Settle in, relax and treat yourself to some world-class entertainment: reading, watching, and listening.
National Garden Scheme
Claire O'Mahony, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design, says: 'Design history also researches landscape design and the built environment. If you are feeling sad about not being able to visit historic and contemporary gardens, fear not for the National Garden Scheme has created a joyful set of virtual tours for us all to enjoy'. Discover the gardens of Doddington Place, the medieval Hospital of St Cross, Sandringham and more.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is currently closed to visitors due to the significant smoke impacts and hazardous air quality caused by the California wildfires. However, you can still explore this natural wonder by taking a look at the park's live-time webcams, capturing views including Yosemite Falls, the Half Dome and El Capitan. The website also hosts a wealth of information about the nature and science of the park, as well as its history and culture.
BBC: Culture in Quarantine
The BBC's 'Culture in Quarantine' programme is described as 'an essential arts and culture service across platforms that will keep the arts alive in people’s homes'. The initiative includes TV and radio shows such as BBC4's Museums in Quarantine; The Big Book Weekend - a three-day virtual festival featuring the biggest names in books alongside unknown debut authors and rising talents; and the Proms classical music festival. Also, the BBC Arts website has been renamed Culture in Quarantine for the duration of the pandemic and is constantly being updated with new creatives to support and showcase the work of the wider culture sector.
Heritage Open Days
Heritage Open Days is England's largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,000 organisations, 5,500 events and 46,000 volunteers. Every year in September, places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all free. This year, as well as any in-person opportunities possible within government guidelines, online events will be offered for the first time. Online offerings include taking a virtual tour of the Liskeard Station signal box, going (virtually) behind the scenes at a recycling centre, or going for a stroll around Wisbech in Cambridgeshire using Minecraft.
Other parts of the UK are also offering online events throughout September. For Wales visit Open Doors Online; for Scotland visit Doors Open Days; and for Nothern Ireland see European Heritage Open Days.
iF Oxford Science + Ideas Festival
From Thursday 1 to Saturday 31 October, iF Oxford, the city’s science and ideas festival, presents more than 100 online events for you to enjoy from home. Covering dance, film, debates, demonstrations and hands-on activities - there is something for all ages to enjoy. The Festival: 'brings together real time cutting-edge research from world-leading academics with wide-ranging events to excite the imagination. Festival-goers can uncover big ideas and ask even bigger questions about science, humanity, the world at large and beyond'. The majority of events are free to attend, with donations being welcome using the Festival’s Pay What You Decide system.
WRITE Where We Are NOW
The WRITE Where We Are NOW project, created by British poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, was formed to bring together poets from the around during the Covid-19 crisis. As stated on the project's website: 'Our poets were invited to write directly about the pandemic or about the personal situation they found themselves in during lockdown. The collection features poems written from the earliest stages of the pandemic up until 30th June 2020. The poems are presented in date order and each includes a note about where it was written. They will remain online as a permanent creative, historical and sociological record of these extraordinary and challenging times.'
In this special Curious Minds illustrated lecture, Dr Claire O'Mahony, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design, explores the design history of two Victorian plates from Staffordshire and how they tell us tales of creativity, industry, international trade, good housekeeping and young love. As Dr O'Mahony reminds us, 'the humblest of objects tells a glorious tale.'
Enjoy Stongehenge from home using the myriad of resources provided by English Heritage. Take an interactive tour of the site; read a full history of the prehistoric monument; discover the latest in-depth research; explore detailed reconstruction images; and enjoy Stonehenge Skyscape - a platform allowing everyone to experience the skies above the historical site, as if standing within the stones.
Ten-Minute Book Club
Sandie Byrne, Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing, recommends Ten-Minute Book Club - a new online project from the Faculty of English. As described by Karen O’Brien, Head of Humanities at the University: 'Ten-Minute Book Club aims to make a great conversation about literature possible, and to offer a quick and accessible way into some of the greatest writing by extraordinary writers from all backgrounds, guided by Oxford’s expertise on exciting authors and books'. Every Friday they will post a free literary excerpt that you can read in just ten minutes. Each extract is paired with free resources and an introduction by an expert.
University of Oxford Philosophy Podcasts
Marianne Talbot, our Director of Studies in Philosophy, recommends the University of Oxford Philosophy Podcasts. Series include General Philosophy, eight lectures delivered to first year undergraduates in Michaelmas term 2018; Journal of Practical Ethics, covering moral and political philosophy; From Conscience to Robots, discussing a range of topics from conscientious objection in healthcare, science and religious conflict, cyberselves, and more; and the philosophy of David Hume.
Working on the assumption that ‘science is culture’, Dr Adam Rutherford presents BBC Radio 4's Inside Science, a weekly show that reflects how science works, how it underpins culture and how it affects you. Enjoy hundreds of 30 minute episodes and short clips across a wide range of subjects, including Neolithic baby bottles, the effect of noise on wildlife, artificial virtual reality skin, and how green are electric cars?
Archaeopress: Open Access
David Griffiths, Associate Professor in Archaeology, recommends the open access publications from Archaeopress - an Oxford-based publisher specialising in scholarly books and journals in the field of archaeology and related heritage subjects. Each publication can be freely downloaded in PDF format and you can search by subject or by series. We particularly recommend Barbaric Splendour: the use of image before and after Rome - a new book edited by Departmental Lecturer Dr Toby Martin and Senior Associate Tutor in Archaeology Dr Wendy Morrison.
Listen to more than 2,000 poetry recordings from some of the world's most renowned poets with the Poetry Archive. 'Hearing a poet reading his or her work remains uniquely illuminating. It helps us to understand the work as well as helping us to enjoy it. Writers have a particular right to their own work and we are taken to a deeper level of understanding by hearing how they speak it. This is a powerful source of insight, understanding and enjoyment to all lovers of literature and a valuable resource for students of any age'. As well as recordings by contemporary poets, the collection also contains selections of classic poems recorded by contemporary voices.
India on Film 1899-1947
Ben Grant, Departmental Lecturer in English Literature, recommends the free India on Film 1899-1947 film collection on the British Film Institute (BFI) Player. The collection captures India before independence and explores lives – both Indian and British – across the subcontinent during the early 20th century. 'Comprising over 200 non-fiction films, most unseen for decades, the collection takes in temples and tigers, durbars and devil dancers, girl guides and Gandhi. The films inevitably offer a partial view of life in India; with a few exceptions, they were shot by British filmmakers. But between them they serve up revealing insights and countless indelible images.'
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum have partnered with Google Arts & Culture to create a new digital platform, allowing users to enjoy Britain’s oldest botanic garden and 130 acre arboretum from anywhere in the world. Wander through the world’s most threatened trees with Google Street View, learn more about the behind-the-scenes research, explore the online exhibits, or browse the vast library of images all from the comfort of your home.
Take a virtual tour of the Giant's Causeway thanks to the National Trust. Choose from four 360-degree panoramic tours each showing a different view or time of day. Explore the tip of the Grand Causeway at sunset; take in the view of Aird Snout; see the sun rise over the bay at The Giant's Port; or gaze out towards port Noffer on a calm summer day.
Oxford Festival of the Arts
The Oxford Festival of the Arts usually takes place, as the name suggests, in Oxford each summer. This year however, due to the pandemic, the festival has moved online and an array of free virtual lectures and performances are available for you to enjoy from home. The festival runs until Sunday 5th July and as the events are being recorded you can watch them live, or at a later date to suit you. Take a look at 'what's on' to view all upcoming events, or watch past sessions on their YouTube channel.
Virtual tours: Eqyptian sites
Take a virtual tour of the 5,000-year-old Queen Meresankh III tomb in Giza from anywhere in the world, thanks to the Egyptian Tourist Board and 3D modelling by Harvard University. Other virtual trips of historic Egyptian sites available to explore include the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the late 14th-century medieval Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq, and the Coptic Orthodox Red Monastery.
Sandie Byrne, Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing, recommends Project Gutenberg. This online library of more than 60,000 eBooks is all free to download or read online. No special apps are required as each can be read using your standard web browser. 'Thousands of volunteers digitized and diligently proofread the eBooks, for enjoyment and education.'
Oxford at Home
Join Oxford at Home - a weekly, live 'tutorial' discussing research from the University of Oxford. From Rembrandt’s early life, to biomedically engineered bubbles, to Shakespeare's quarantine writings, and much much more - all hosted by Professor Rana Mitter. Details of upcoming tutorials, and recordings of previous events, can be found on the University's website.
Lonely Planet have created five city walking routes that you can explore using Google Maps - so you can 'pound the streets' of a new city from home. Discover Havana, Cuba; Split, Croatia; Melbourne, Australia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Bangkok, Thailand.
Tutor John Hughes recommends Kurzgesagt - a YouTube channel aiming to 'make science look beautiful'. John says that 'this has loads of really interesting videos on wider areas of science. The videos are roughly 10 minutes long (or shorter), are animated and explore questions in a concise and entertaining way'. Playlists include 'The Universe and Space Stuff', 'The Existential Crisis' and 'Human Stuff'.
British Film Institute
Claire O'Mahony, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design, says that 'one of the challenges currently facing our students is losing access to the physical evidence and experiences at the heart of design-history research. The British Film Institute (BFI) website provides access to free archive films and shorts, including this wonderful set of featured collections - which include documentary films about key design materials and manufacturing. Some of my favourites are the textiles, steel, shipbuilding and advertising on film collections. For a real nostalgia trip enjoy the pleasures and perils in Public Information Films and The March of Time newsreels.'
The Future of Artificial Intelligence
Discover how modern neuroscience is researching the way the human brain can comprehend a working environment with The Future of Artificial Intelligence talk by Simon Stringer. Recommended by Thomas Hesselberg, Director of Studies in Biological Sciences, this talk formed part of The Future of Science Symposium, hosted by the Dunn School Graduate Student Association.
The New Yorker
Tara Stubbs, Associate Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing, recommends The New Yorker Poetry Podcast. Each month, Editor Kevin Young invites poets to read and discuss works by others as well as their own. Tara states that it’s ‘accessible and challenging at the same time, and they're all free to download. They also have a monthly fiction podcast, with readings and discussions of short fiction, hosted by editor Deborah Treisman.'
Curious Minds Podcast
Dr Elizabeth Gemmill, Associate Professor in History and Director of our Weekly Classes programme, says: 'What strikes me, as an historian, is the number of times that I’ve heard people looking to the past to try to contextualise our present experience. Any scholar worth her salt will live her subject; and so I find myself thinking about the Middle Ages.' In episode one of our new Curious Minds Podcast, she explores medieval accounts of epidemics and in particular their uncertainties about the causes, course and consequences of disease.
Bring music into your home with this online concert hall from Konserthuset Stockholm. While the site primarily features concert films with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, it also presents other genres of Konserthuset's extensive range of performances such as jazz, chamber music and concerts for children.
Audible are providing free access to a wide range of audio books for kids to help keep young minds active and engaged. However, if you look past the stories for children and tweens you will discover a range of Literary Classics including Jane Eyre, Les Miserables and Frankenstein as well Folk and Fairy Tales for all to enjoy.
For many years, Netflix has provided its educational documentaries free to schools. Now, the 'Our Planet' series, along with many other wonderful documentaries, are being offered for free to the world. Thomas Hesselberg, Director of Studies in Biological Sciences, recommends the eight-part documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough as 'the "Our Planet" series gives us an incredible view of the planet's remaining wilderness areas and their animal inhabitants, across fifty countries. It's produced in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund - and there are even classroom educational resources provided.'
Douglas Bamford, Tutor in Philosophy and Political Economy, recommends a series of online lectures from political philosopher Michael Sandel. Justice is the first Harvard University course to be made freely available online and Douglas notes that 'these free online lectures are a good preparation for anyone interested in taking a course in political philosophy, ethics or bioethics.' The question 'what's the right thing to do?' forms the core of the course, and lectures include 'The Case for Cannibalism', 'The Good Citizen' and 'Putting a Price Tag on Life'.
Big Tent! Big Ideas!
Big Tent! Big Ideas! from The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) brings world-leading speakers and humanities researchers at the University into conversation with one another to explore the biggest questions of our day through the lens of their academic research. What the past can tell us about tackling disease in the present? Keen to explore how the arts can shape our responses to environmental concerns, medical issues, and peace and conflict on the global stage? Then tune in live every Thursday at 5pm (UK time), or watch at a time to suit you on the TORCH YouTube channel.
Linear Algebra and Calculus
Cezar Ionescu, Associate Professor of Data Science, says, ‘Linear Algebra will mean different things to you depending on whether you have a physics, computer science or mathematical background. These YouTube videos provide a grounding in Linear Algebra to understand it on a numerical and geometric level.’ Cezar also recommends watching the Essence of Calculus for a visual and straightforward introduction using a series of videos, which aim to teach you Calculus as if you had discovered it yourself.
Battling Bad Science
Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, recommends a TED Talk delivered by his colleague Ben Goldacre. Carl says, 'Battling Bad Science has had more than two million views, and is an engaging and rewarding 15 minutes in which Ben, epidemiologist and debunker, examines the ways evidence can be distorted.'
The Moby-Dick Big Read
Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is an epic novel often left unread due to its sprawling dense read. Luckily, The Arts Institute at Plymouth University has created The Moby-Dick Big Read. Recommended by Ben Grant, Departmental Lecturer in English Literature, each of the 135 chapters is read aloud by a ‘mixture of the celebrated and the unknown’ so you can listen to a new chapter at a pace to suit you.
Oxford Mathematics Institute Public Lectures
The Oxford Mathematics Institute invites the world's best mathematicians to share the pleasures (and occasional pain) of their subject with a wider audience through their Public Lectures programme. Previous lectures are available to watch online on YouTube and our Marketing Officer, Stacie Cullen, particularly recommends the 2019 playlist: watch Marcus du Sautoy discuss how AI is learning to write, paint and think; Chris Budd gets festive and breaks down the maths to some Christmas related questions including why does Rudolph have a shiny nose?; and David Sumpter asks 'could a Premier League team one day be managed by a mathematician?'
Carly Watson, Departmental Lecturer in Literature and Arts, is proud to share VIDES - or Volume of Interdisciplinary Essays - which is the student-produced journal of the MSt in Literature and Arts (MLA). Carly states 'every aspect of it, from the cover design to the contents, is created by the students. The 2020 issue contains interdisciplinary essays on a remarkable range of subjects, from early sixteenth-century pew ends in a church in Northamptonshire to late Victorian lesbian vampires. It is a testament to the hard work and collaborative efforts of the students, and a fitting tribute to the originator and former director of the MLA, Dr Cathy Oakes.'
The Show Must Go Online
'The Show Must Go Online' is a weekly live reading of Shakespeare by actors from across the globe. A different play will be performed each week, in the order it is believed that they were written, starting with 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona'. Watch the actors live from their living rooms or view at a time to suit you. Recommended by Tara Stubbs, Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing.
Oxford University Podcasts
Oxford University Podcasts brings together over 6000 audio and video lectures, seminars, interviews, teaching resources, and more from the University - all free for everyone to enjoy. Content is added regularly and as well as watching or listening online, you can also download content for free. Not sure where to start? Then take a look at this list of recommended podcasts to get you going.
Director of Studies in Music Jonathan Darnborough highlights two classical music resources for you to enjoy: ‘BBC Radio 3 has a huge archive of programmes covering composers from Adolphe Adam and John Adams to Jan Zelenka and Alexander Zemlinsky – with a good many much more familiar names in between. A good place to start exploring this rich resource is the Discovering Music series home page. Also, here is an extraordinary animated realisation of the first Prelude and Fugue from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. The music is beautifully performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a stunningly imaginative film by Alan Warburton.’
Philosophy Now magazine claims that it ‘aims to corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile and comprehensible’. Their podcast series, recommended by our Director of Studies in Philosophy Marianne Talbot, lets you explore dozens of topics. Start with ‘The History of Philosophy in Less Than an Hour’ and then move on to matters of right and wrong, Buddhist philosophy and God, to name but a few.
The Met Opera
The Metropolitan Opera hope to 'brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark' by making available a different performance from their Live in HD series each day. These will be available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. If you aren't familiar with opera then now is a great time to discover the art form. Performances will include complete shows from the past 14 years, featuring some of opera’s greatest singers.
Oxford Centre for Life-Writing
The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) is a research centre designed to support those who write auto/biography and those who undertake research on different forms of life narratives. Frank Egerton, Creative Writing Tutor at the Department, recommends the OCLW Podcasts as 'the hot topic of recent years has been the blurring of boundaries between fiction and life-writing. The OCLW has, in a very short time, become a vital part of the city's creative writing network. The podcasts make its brilliant events available to the world beyond Oxford.'