National Trust launches free Zoom backdrops of famous libraries

The backdrops include Vita Sackville-West’s writing room and Agatha Christie’s library

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine editor Sarah Williams models the National Trust virtual backdrop of Vita Sackville-West's writing room in Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

Book and history lovers can now make Zoom calls from some of the UK’s most splendid historic libraries and studies thanks to a new set of free backdrops from the National Trust.

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The National Trust has launched six free virtual backdrops of its famous historic sites for Zoom and other video calling services, with more due to be released soon.

The backdrops include the former homes of writers Agatha Christie and Vita Sackville-West.

Assistant curator Katie Knowles said: “With many still working from home, we wanted to help people bring a touch of history and beauty to their virtual meetings and catch ups.”

One of the backdrops is of the library at Greenway, Devon, where bestselling murder mystery novelist Agatha Christie lived and worked.

Another backdrop shows Vita Sackville-West’s writing room in the tower at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, where she wrote novels, reviews and gardening books.

In this room, after Vita’s death, one of her sons discovered a locked Gladstone bag containing over 80 pages of autobiography that discussed her same sex love affairs, including with fellow writer Virginia Woolf.

The backdrops also show the National Trust’s largest library at Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

The library holds more than 12,500 manuscripts and printed books, among them is the Eliot Bible, one of the first books ever printed in British North America, written in the lost language of Wôpanâak.

The library of Townend, a 17th-century farmhouse in the Lake District, seems far humbler, but is truly unique.

The farmhouse library contains 1500 books belonging to the family who lived there – 45 of which don’t survive anywhere else in the world.

A view of the Library at Townend, Cumbria, from the National Trust
A view of the library at Townend, Cumbria
James Dobson

The farmhouse library contains 1500 books belonging to the family who lived there – 45 of which don’t survive anywhere else in the world.

Another backdrop shows the ‘Office of the Caretaker of the Electric Light’ from Cragside, Northumberland.

Built by Victorian inventor Lord William Armstrong, the house is the first in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.

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The final backdrop is the library of Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, whose collections include a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim taken on Captain Robert Scott’s ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole.