Free Coloring Books from 101 World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download and Color Hundreds of Free Images

The free, downloadable adult coloring books that the New York Academy of Medicine solicits from museums and university and state libraries for its #ColorOurCollections celebration each February enliven our month far more than any Valentine or Presidents Day sale.

They’re not just a great way to while away winter’s last gasp. They’re also a wonderful portal for discovering cultural institutions that have thusfar flown beneath our radar, owing to size, geography, and/or field of study.

It’s up to each institution to determine what – and how much – to include.

Some color inside the lines by sticking to the subject for which they’re best known. Most take more of a mixed bag approach, flinging a variety of fascinating, unrelated images at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Some offerings are but a single page. Others will have you wearing your crayons to nubs.

With 101 participating organizations, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Maybe we can help…

Is medicine your thing?

If so, you’re in luck. By our reckoning, that’s the most popular subject, though it spans a broad range, from line drawings of flowering medicinal plants and a reproduction of a 1998 American Society of Anesthesiologists coloring book for pediatric patients, to flayed cadavers and harrowing surgical vignettes from centuries gone by.

The pages below come compliments of Stanford Medical History Center’s Lane Library, McGill University’s Osler Library of the History of Medicine, and Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye, the only free, public museum dedicated to the fascinating science of sight.

Is architecture more your area of interest?

Glessner House, Western University, and the University of Barcelona have plans for you!

Does coloring make your nostalgic for childhood?

The South Carolina State Library, the University of Calgary, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have you covered with charming illustrations from Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories, Dr. Dolittle’s Circus, and Heroes of the Kalevala

Do you have only a few minutes to spare…or a preschooler in need of simpler graphics?

We get it, and so do the Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, the Bibliothèque municipale de Soissons, and the Harvard Art Museums.

It’s always a joy to see who’s behind the year’s freakiest image.

This year, our vote goes to the Bibliothèque Mazarine, France’s oldest public library, but feel free to put forth other candidates in the comments section

Begin your explorations of 2022’s coloring books here. See how others have colored these pages by exploring the hashtag #ColorOurCollections on social media.


2022’s Participating Institutions

New York Academy of Medicine Library

AIA Nashville Society & Nashville Parthenon

American Geographical Society Library – UW Milwaukee

Biblioteca de la Universidad de Zaragoza

Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de Santé – Université de Paris

Bibliothèque Les Champs Libres

Bibliothèque d’étude et de conservation de Besançon

La Bibliothèque Mazarine

Bibliothèque multimédia intercommunale d’Épinal

Bibliothèque municipale de Soissons

Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University Libraries)

The Burylin Ivanovo Museum of Local History

Central Children’s Library of Belgorod District

Centralna pravosodna knjižnica – Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia Central Judicial Library

CEP Santa Cruz de Tenerife

CollEx études ibériques, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

CRAI Library at University of Barcelona

Denver Botanic Gardens

DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Fairfield University

Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives

Eton College Library


Fairfield University Art Museum

Free Library of Philadelphia Special Collections Division

Gladstone’s Library

Glessner House

Harley-Davidson Archives

Harvard Art Museums

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

Jeleniogórskie Centrum Informacji i Edukacji Regionalnej Książnica Karkonoska

Kentucky Historical Society

Leonard H. Axe Library, Pittsburg State University

Libraries and Cultural Resources, University of Calgary

Library of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Library of Virginia

Lithuanian National Museum of Art

Maine State Library

Mann Library, Cornell University

Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Abraham Pollen Archives

Massachusetts General Hospital Archives & Special Collections

McGill Library (Osler Library of the History of Medicine)

Médiathèque Jacques-Chirac, Troyes Champagne Métropole

Médiathèque Pierre-Amalric

Medical Heritage Library

Memoria Chilena

Miejska Biblioteka Publiczna w Sosnowcu

Moody Medical Library

Museum of the Order of St. John

Museum Plantin-Moretus

National Library of Medicine (NLM)

National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

New Jersey State House

Norfolk Arts/a>

North Carolina Museum of Art

Northern Illinois University


Princeton University Library

Providence College Archives & Special Collections, Phillips Memorial Library

Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library

Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking

Royal College of Physicians London

Royal Horticultural Society Libraries

Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives

Saint Francis de Sales Parish History Archives Coloring Book 2022

Seton Hall University Libraries

SHSU Special Collections, Newton Gresham Library

Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

South Carolina State Library

Stanford Medical History Center, Lane Library

Stanford University Libraries

State Universal Scientific Library of Krasnoyarsk Territory

Stratford Hall

Subcarpathian Digital Library

Swedenborg Library of Bryn Athyn College

Toronto Public Library

Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye

UCC Library, University College Cork

University of British Columbia Library

University of California San Francisco Archives and Special Collections

University of Dayton Libraries

University of Illinois Chicago Special Collections and University Archives

University of Kansas Libraries

University Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

University of Nevada, Reno Department of Special Collections and University Archives

Université de Perpignan Via Domitia

University of South Florida Libraries

University of Waterloo Special Collections & Archives

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Special Collections

U.S. Department of the Interior Museum

Villa Bernasconi

Washington State Library

Western University Archives and Special Collections

West Virginia & Regional History Center

William L. Clements Library

Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago

Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology

Yaroslavl Regional Universal Scientific Library named after N. A. Nekrasov

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hear the Uncensored Original Version of “Hurricane,” Bob Dylan’s Protest Song About Jailed Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1976)

Throughout his six-decade-long career, Bob Dylan has taken up quite a few causes in his songs. In the 1960s he was especially given to musical accusations of miscarriages of justice like “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” which he recorded less than two months after the assassination of Medgar Evers. But he kept it up even in the 70s, as demonstrated by his 1976 album Desire. “Here comes the story of the Hurricane,” he sings on its opening track, “the man the authorities came to blame for something that he never done: put in a prison cell, but one time he could have been the champion of the world.”

This “Hurricane” is, of course, former star boxer Rubin Carter, who’d been convicted for a triple murder at a Paterson, New Jersey bar a decade earlier. Today, many know the story of the Hurricane from the eponymous Denzel Washington-starring Hollywood biopic. By the time that film came out in 1999, Carter had long since been exonerated and made a free man, but when Dylan sang of his having been “falsely tried,” and “obviously framed,” the man was still serving a double life sentence. It was Carter’s autobiography The Sixteenth Round, written in prison, that inspired the literarily-minded Dylan to champion his release.

Written with songwriter-psychologist Jacques Levy, Dylan’s collaborator throughout Desire, “Hurricane” still today sounds as if it pulls no punches, delivering a host of can-he-say-that moments in its seven minutes. But in truth, says Far Our Magazine, “Dylan’s initial vision for the track had been a little different before the lawyers at Columbia Records began pawing over the lyrics. While many of Dylan’s claims of racial injustice are there in plain sight, the men in suits were more concerned with the lyrics implying that Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley (the two lead witnesses of the original case) as having ‘robbed the bodies'” of Carter and acquaintance John Artis’ alleged victims. Given that they hadn’t been accused of stealing from any corpses, Columbia feared that the implication would draw a lawsuit.

Dylan had previously exhibited a devil-may-care attitude about such matters in his protest songs: “I should have sued him and put him in jail,” grumbled an aged William Zantzinger, the real-life attacker in Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” But this time Dylan acquiesced to the lawyers. Returning to the studio with members of his Rolling Thunder Revue, he laid down a new version of “Hurricane,” censored but musically even harder-hitting (below), that did make it onto Desire. In the video at the top of the post, you can hear the original, which is longer, slower, and more raw in every sense. In the event, the expurgated “Hurricane” still got Dylan sued, but by a different witness: Patricia Valentine, who lived above the bar where the killings occurred and insisted that she did not, in fact, see “the bartender in a pool of blood.” Even a future Nobel Prize winner, it seems, isn’t safe to take a bit of poetic license.

Related content:

Watch Bob Dylan Perform “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” His Damning Song About the Murder of Medgar Evers, at the 1963 March on Washington

“Tangled Up in Blue”: Deciphering a Bob Dylan Masterpiece

Bob Dylan Releases a Cryptic 17-Minute Song about the JFK Assassination: Hear a “Murder Most Foul”

Bob Dylan Goes Punk on Late Night with David Letterman, Playing “Jokerman” with the Latino Punk Band, the Plugz (1984)

How Bob Dylan Created a Musical & Literary World All His Own: Four Video Essays

Pop Songs with Narrative: Pretty Much Pop (#69) Discusses Tunes Ranging from Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” to “The Pina Colada Song” with Songwriter/Author Rod Picott

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why Russia Invaded Ukraine: A Useful Primer

Why did Russia launch an unprovoked war in Ukraine and risk creating a wider global conflict? If you haven’t closely tracked the ambitions of Vladimir Putin, this primer offers some helpful context. In 30 minutes, the video covers the geopolitical, economic and environmental backstory. As you watch the explainer, it’s worth keeping one thing in mind: For years, European nations have long resisted bringing Ukraine into the NATO fold, precisely because they knew it would trigger a conflict with Putin. And there had been no recent plan to revisit the issue. All of this suggests that Putin has highlighted the NATO threat (amply discussed in the video) because it would provide him a useful pretext for an invasion. There was hardly an imminent threat.

If you’re looking for other rationales not covered by this video, you could focus on two reasons provided by Hein Goemans, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester: Putin “wants to reestablish directly or indirectly, by annexation or by puppet-regimes, a Russian empire—be it the former USSR or Tsarist Russia. A second possible answer has to do with the role of domestic Russian politics, which the standard literature on conflict takes very seriously: Putin has seen what happened in some former Soviet successor republics and the former Yugoslavia, several of which experienced ‘Color Revolutions’ and democratized. Indeed, it was a Color Revolution in Ukraine in 2014, which Putin mischaracterizes as a military coup. He wants to prevent more of these revolutions and prevent a democratic encirclement of countries around him, which could provide a safe haven for Russian dissidents who’d be dangerous to Putin’s political survival. Both of these goals overlap in the sense that he is seeking regime change, which is a dangerous game.”

For a deeper dive into the imperial ambitions of Putin–his attempt to reconstitute the Russian Empire–read this eye-opening interview with Fiona Hill.

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Related Content 

West Point Expert Gives Ukrainians Advice on Conducting Effective Urban Warfare Against Russian Troops

Why is Ukraine in Crisis?: A Quick Primer For Those Too Embarrassed to Ask (2014)

Why Putin Wants Alexei Navalny Dead

Free Online History Courses 

West Point Expert Gives Ukrainians Advice on Conducting Effective Urban Warfare Against Russian Troops

John W. Spencer currently serves as the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point. He’s also Co-Director of the Urban Warfare Project, and host of the Urban Warfare Project podcast. Ergo, he knows something about urban warfare.

On Twitter, he gave advice to civilians resistors in Ukraine, especially Kyiv, on how to resist the Russian invasions. His tweet thread reads as follows:

  1. So I’ve been asked what my advice would be to civilian resistors in Ukriane, especially Kyiv. Someone with no military training but wanting to resist. Here are a few things #Kyiv #UkraineUnderAttack :
  2. You have the power but you have to fight smart. The urban defense is hell for any soldier. It usually take 5 attackers to 1 defender. Russians do not have the numbers. Turn Kyiv and any urban area leading to Kyiv into a porcupine.
  3. Go out and build obstacles in the streets! Start with any bridge you can find (they should have been destroyed). Block them with cars, trucks, concrete, wood, trash, anything! Then block any spot in the city where there are tall buildings on each side. Already tight areas.
  4. If it is a street you still need to use. Build a S pattern obstacle that still slows a vehicle down. Think police check point (which you could set up if you wanted to catch saboteurs before military reach your location)
  5. Once you have obstacles (never stop building). I really mean thousands of barriers/obstacles. You can decided places to fight. Places to shoot from or ambush any soldier or vehicle that stops or slows down at your obstacles.
  6. Do NOT stand in the open and shoot or throw anything (to include molotov cocktail) at a Russian soldier or vehicles. Shoot from windows, behind cars, around alleyway corners. Build positions (concrete best) to fire from.
  7. You must prepare for the Russians to start using artillery to help their troops. Make sure the places you choose to shoot from are strong. If in a building, make holes in the walls so you can shoot from and bigger ones to move to other rooms or buildings. You must survive.
  8. Yes, use your molotov cocktails. Think about where you will stand to throw (then run). Dropping from windows above vehicles most ideal. Vehicles without weapons on top the most vulnerable, but if it is armor, choose where to hit.
  9. Form into groups. Ideally 3 to 5 and decided where to shoot at Russians from. You get to decide. Best if coordinated with another group and using your obstacles to slow something and shoot at from concealed and protected positions.
  10. Again, your survival to fight is important so think hard about where you will shoot from. Elevated positions down long streets. Shoot and run. Ambushes. Aim for the windows and doors of non-armor vehicles. Soldiers in open. One of the greatest fears of a soldier is a sniper.
  11. You are not a sniper, but you can put fear in their hearts if they think there are snipers everywhere. Again take care of yourselves to be able to resist. Drink water. 3 days without water and you won’t be able to fight. More later.

Rough Ukrainian Translation (Courtesy of Google Translate):

  1. Тож мене запитали, що б я порадив цивільним резисторам в Україні, особливо в Києві. Хтось без військової підготовки, але хоче чинити опір. Ось кілька речей #Kyiv #UkraineUnder Attack :
  2. У вас є сила, але ви повинні боротися розумно. Міська оборона – це пекло для будь-якого солдата. Зазвичай потрібно 5 нападників на 1 захисника. У росіян немає цифр. Перетворіть Київ і будь-яку міську територію, що веде до Києва, на дикобраза.
  3. Виходьте і будуйте перешкоди на вулицях! Почніть з будь-якого мосту, який ви можете знайти (їх слід було знищити). Блокуйте їх автомобілями, вантажівками, бетоном, деревом, сміттям, чим завгодно! Потім заблокуйте будь-яке місце в місті, де з обох боків є високі будівлі. Вже тісні ділянки.
  4. Якщо це вулиця, вам все одно потрібно користуватися. Побудуйте перешкоду типу S, яка все ще уповільнює транспортний засіб. Уявіть поліцейський контрольно-пропускний пункт (який ви можете встановити, якщо хочете зловити диверсантів до того, як військові прибудуть до вашого місця)
  5. Як тільки у вас є перешкоди (ніколи не припиняйте будувати). Я дійсно маю на увазі тисячі бар’єрів/перешкод. Ви можете визначити місця для боротьби. Місця для стрілянини або засідки будь-якого солдата чи транспортного засобу, які зупиняються або сповільнюються на ваших перешкодах.
  6. Do NOT stand in the open and shoot or throw anything (to include molotov cocktail) at a Russian soldier or vehicles. Shoot from windows, behind cars, around alleyway corners. Build positions (concrete best) to fire from.
  7. Ви повинні підготуватися до того, що росіяни почнуть використовувати артилерію для допомоги своїм військам. Переконайтеся, що місця, з яких ви обираєте стріляти, є міцними. Якщо в будівлі, зробіть отвори в стінах, щоб ви могли стріляти з більших, щоб переміститися в інші кімнати або будівлі. Ви повинні вижити.
  8. Так, використовуйте свої коктейлі Молотова. Подумайте, куди ви будете стояти, щоб кинути (тоді бігти). Найідеальнішим варіантом є падіння з вікон над транспортними засобами. Транспорт без зброї зверху найбільш вразливий, але якщо це броня, вибирайте, куди вдарити.
  9. Об’єднайтеся в групи. В ідеалі 3 до 5 і вирішив, звідки стріляти в росіян. Вам вирішувати. Найкраще, якщо координуватись з іншою групою та використовувати свої перешкоди, щоб уповільнити щось і стріляти з прихованих і захищених позицій.
  10. Знову ж таки, ваше виживання для боротьби важливе, тому добре подумайте, звідки ви будете стріляти. Піднесені позиції на довгих вулицях. Стріляй і бігай. Засідки. Націлюйтеся на вікна та двері неброньованих транспортних засобів. Солдати відкрито. Один з найбільших страхів солдата – снайпер.
  11. Ви не снайпер, але можете вселити в їхні серця страх, якщо вони думають, що снайпери всюди. Знову подбайте про себе, щоб мати можливість протистояти. Пити воду. 3 дні без води і ти не зможеш битися. Ще пізніше.

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Are You a Fascist?: Take Theodor Adorno’s Authoritarian Personality Test Created to Combat Fascism (1947)

A man of various accomplishments, Theodor Adorno is perhaps most widely known as the very image of the midcentury European intellectual in exile. After his Jewish background got him forced out of Nazi Germany, he spent fifteen years in England and the United States. Despite his geographical distance from the troubles of the Continent — and even after the end of the Second World War — he understandably remained very much concerned with the nature of not just Hitler himself but all those who supported him. This led to such studies as his 1947 essay “Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler” as well as (in collaboration with Berkeley researchers Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford) the 1950 book The Authoritarian Personality.

The Authoritarian Personality‘s best-known tool to diagnose the titular personal and social condition is a quantitative system called the “California F-scale” — the F stands for fascism — which produces a score based on a subject’s response to a set of propositions. “To create a personality test that actually revealed latent authoritarianism, the researchers had to give up on the idea that there’s a strong link between anti-Semitism and authoritarianism,” writes Ars Technica’s Annalee Newitz. “Though their experiences with the Holocaust suggested a causal connection between hatred of Jews and the rise of fascism, it turned out that people with authoritarian tendencies were more accurately described as ethnocentric.”

These would-be authoritarians also, as Adorno and his collaborators’ research found, “tended to distrust science and strongly disliked the idea of using imagination to solve problems. They preferred to stick to tried-and-true traditional methods of organizing society.” Other tendencies included “superstition, aggression, cynicism, conservatism, and an inordinate interest in the private sex lives of others.” All these findings informed an F-scale test which consisted of the statements below. For each statement, participants had to select one of the following options : “Disagree Strongly,” “Disagree Mostly,” “Disagree Somewhat,” “Agree Somewhat,” “Agree,” or “MostlyAgree.”

  1. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
  2. A person who has bad manners, habits, and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people.
  3. If people would talk less and work more, everybody would be better off.
  4. The business man and the manufacturer are much more important to society than the artist and the professor.
  5. Science has its place, but there are many important things that can never be understood by the human mind.
  6. Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.
  7. Young people sometimes get rebellious ideas, but as they grow up they ought to get over them and settle down.
  8. What this country needs most, more than laws and political programs, is a few courageous, tireless, devoted leaders in whom the people can put their faith.
  9. No sane, normal, decent person could ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
  10. Nobody ever learned anything really important except through suffering.
  11. What the youth needs most is strict discipline, rugged determination, and the will to work and fight for family and country.
  12. An insult to our honor should always be punished.
  13. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be publicly whipped, or worse.
  14. There is hardly anything lower than a person who does not feel a great love, gratitude, and respect for his parents.
  15. Most of our social problems would be solved if we could somehow get rid of the immoral, crooked, and feebleminded people.
  16. Homosexuals are hardly better than criminals and ought to be severely punished.
  17. When a person has a problem or worry, it is best for him not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.
  18. Nowadays more and more people are prying into matters that should remain personal and private.
  19. Some people are born with an urge to jump from high places.
  20. People can be divided into two distinct classes: the weak and the strong.
  21. Some day it will probably be shown that astrology can explain a lot of things.
  22. Wars and social troubles may someday be ended by an earthquake or flood that will destroy the whole world.
  23. No weakness or difficulty can hold us back if we have enough will power.
  24. It is best to use some prewar authorities in Germany to keep order and prevent chaos.
  25. Most people don’t realize how much our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places.
  26. Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.
  27. Familiarity breeds contempt.
  28. Nowadays when so many different kinds of people move around and mix together so much, a person has to protect himself especially carefully against catching an infection or disease from them.
  29. The wild sex life of the old Greeks and Romans was tame compared to some of the goings-on in this country, even in places where people might least expect it.
  30. The true American way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve it.

You can take the test yourself here. But don’t take it too seriously: the F-scale “has been heavily criticized by many psychologists because it is a better indicator of conservatism, an old-fashioned outlook, and a tendency to say ‘yes’ to anything rather than as a measure of authoritarianism,” write Ferdinand A. Gul and John J. Ray in their 1989 paper “Pitfalls in Using the F Scale to Measure Authoritarianism in Accounting Research.” That aside, any reasonably intelligent subject can easily figure out the motives of the test itself. Nevertheless, as Gizmodo’s Esther Inglis-Arkell writes, it offers an occasion to consider whether “you’re superstitious, conformist, or any other awful thing that will cause you to go out one morning and annex something” — no less a concern now, it seems, than it was in Adorno’s day.

Related content:

An Animated Introduction to Theodor Adorno & His Critique of Modern Capitalism

Theodor Adorno’s Radical Critique of Joan Baez and the Music of the Vietnam War Protest Movement

Hear Theodor Adorno’s Avant-Garde Musical Compositions

Theodor Adorno’s Philosophy of Punctuation

Toni Morrison Lists the 10 Steps That Lead Countries to Fascism (1995)

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Starship Titanic: The Video Game Created by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), with Help from John Cleese & Terry Jones

“The starship Titanic was a monstrously pretty sight as it lay beached like a silver Arcturan Megavoidwhale among the laserlit tracery of its construction gantries”–writes Douglas Adams in The Life, The Universe and Everything, the third novel in the Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy–“a brilliant cloud of pins and needles of light against the deep interstellar blackness; but when launched, it did not even manage to complete its very first radio message —an SOS—before undergoing a sudden and gratuitous total existence failure.”

This paragraph is a tiny humorous flourish in a series of novels filled with hundreds of them, but for some reason—possibly its relationship to the original doomed luxury liner–the Starship Titanic would go on to have an amazingly detailed second life as a video game. And while a paperback copy of any of Adams’ work is readily available, it can take some hunting to find a workable version of the game.

Douglas Adams designed the game himself, starting in 1996. A decade earlier, he had helped design the text-based adventure game adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide, and had expressed a desire to do more work in the video game field, after playing Myst and its sequel Riven. However, he said, “nothing really happens, and nobody is there. I thought, let’s do something similar but populate the environment with characters you can interact with.”

Co-founding the multi-media company Digital Village, Adams wrote the game’s script, set aboard the failing Titanic. The big difference, compared to Myst, is that the character can interact with characters on board, many of them butler-like robots. And instead of typing in commands, players could speak to the characters in real time using a natural language parsing engine called Spookitalk, utilizing over 10,000 lines/16 hours of dialog. Like its puzzle-game influences, it was maddening to play.

But also fun, as Monty Python’s Terry Jones and John Cleese both turn up among the voice actors, the former as a parrot, the latter as a doomsday bomb.

An article in Kotaku from 2015 mentions a tie-in novel that Adams was to write himself, after first assigning co-writers Neil Richards, Debbie Barham, and Michael Bywater to the task. But then:

Living up to his reputation for seemingly infinite tardiness, Adams admitted just three weeks before the book’s deadline that he hadn’t written a thing, and in the end the novel Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic was written in a furious cascade of words by none other than Terry Jones (who claimed that he wrote the whole thing in the nude).

Even more interesting, Yoz Grahame, Digital Village’s web developer had been put in charge of creating the game’s promotional web presence. Buried deep down in a page was a mock forum supposedly being written by the lower-level crew of the Titanic. Grahame kept the forum open for fans of the upcoming game, only to find later that Adams fans had taken this comic easter egg to heart. Six months later there were ten-thousand posts in the mock forum. Users had continued on the story in the spirit of Adams.

“It was like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoes busily working on their third opera,” Grahame told Kotaku. This forum went on for six years, with layers and layers of running jokes.

At the time of the Kotaku piece, the game, originally released on CD-ROM was functionally unplayable on modern video game systems.

Not so now. Six bucks will buy you a modernized copy of the game on Steam or GOG. If you’re curious like me, but have no time to devote the many, many hours to finishing the game, you can watch a 13-part walkthru video. (Note: Adams himself turns up at the very end in an unintentionally poignant cameo.)

via Metafilter

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Medieval Masterpiece, the Book of Kells, Has Been Digitized and Put Online

If you know nothing else about medieval European illuminated manuscripts, you surely know the Book of Kells. “One of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures” comments, “it is set apart from other manuscripts of the same period by the quality of its artwork and the sheer number of illustrations that run throughout the 680 pages of the book.” The work not only attracts scholars, but almost a million visitors to Dublin every year. “You simply can’t travel to the capital of Ireland,” writes Book Riot’s Erika Harlitz-Kern, “without the Book of Kells being mentioned. And rightfully so.”

The ancient masterpiece is a stunning example of Hiberno-Saxon style, thought to have been composed on the Scottish island of Iona in 806, then transferred to the monastery of Kells in County Meath after a Viking raid (a story told in the marvelous animated film The Secret of Kells). Consisting mainly of copies of the four gospels, as well as indexes called “canon tables,” the manuscript is believed to have been made primarily for display, not reading aloud, which is why “the images are elaborate and detailed while the text is carelessly copied with entire words missing or long passages being repeated.”

Its exquisite illuminations mark it as a ceremonial object, and its “intricacies,” argue Trinity College Dublin professors Rachel Moss and Fáinche Ryan, “lead the mind along pathways of the imagination…. You haven’t been to Ireland unless you’ve seen the Book of Kells.” This may be so, but thankfully, in our digital age, you need not go to Dublin to see this fabulous historical artifact, or a digitization of it at least, entirely viewable at the online collections of the Trinity College Library. The pages, originally captured in 1990, “have recently been rescanned,” Trinity College Library writes, using state of the art imaging technology. These new digital images offer the most accurate high resolution images to date, providing an experience second only to viewing the book in person.”

What makes the Book of Kells so special, reproduced “in such varied places as Irish national coinage and tattoos?” ask Professors Moss and Ryan. “There is no one answer to these questions.” In their free online course on the manuscript, these two scholars of art history and theology, respectively, do not attempt to “provide definitive answers to the many questions that surround it.” Instead, they illuminate its history and many meanings to different communities of people, including, of course, the people of Ireland. “For Irish people,” they explain in the course trailer above, “it represents a sense of pride, a tangible link to a positive time in Ireland’s past, reflected through its unique art.”

But while the Book of Kells is still a modern “symbol of Irishness,” it was made with materials and techniques that fell out of use several hundred years ago, and that were once spread far and wide across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. In the video above, Trinity College Library conservator John Gillis shows us how the manuscript was made using methods that date back to the “development of the codex, or the book form.” This includes the use of parchment, in this case calf skin, a material that remembers the anatomical features of the animals from which it came, with markings where tails, spines, and legs used to be.

The Book of Kells has weathered the centuries fairly well, thanks to careful preservation, but it’s also had perhaps five rebindings in its lifetime. “In its original form,” notes Harlitz-Kern, the manuscript “was both thicker and larger. Thirty folios of the original manuscript have been lost through the centuries and the edges of the existing manuscript were severely trimmed during a rebinding in the nineteenth century.” It remains, nonetheless, one of the most impressive artifacts to come from the age of the illuminated manuscript, “described by some,” says Moss and Ryan, “as the most famous manuscript in the world.” Find out why by seeing it (virtually) for yourself and learning about it from the experts above.

For anyone interested in getting a copy of The Book of Kells in a nice print format, see The Book of Kells: Reproductions from the manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin.

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800 Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Are Now Online: Browse & Download Them Courtesy of the British Library and Bibliothèque Nationale de France

How Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Were Made: A Step-by-Step Look at this Beautiful, Centuries-Old Craft

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Image by Bernd Schwabe, via Wikimedia Commons

At least when I was in grade school, we learned the very basics of how the Third Reich came to power in the early 1930s. Paramilitary gangs terrorizing the opposition, the incompetence and opportunism of German conservatives, the Reichstag Fire. And we learned about the critical importance of propaganda, the deliberate misinforming of the public in order to sway opinions en masse and achieve popular support (or at least the appearance of it). While Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels purged Jewish and leftist artists and writers, he built a massive media infrastructure that played, writes PBS, “probably the most important role in creating an atmosphere in Germany that made it possible for the Nazis to commit terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals, and other minorities.”

How did the minority party of Hitler and Goebbels take over and break the will of the German people so thoroughly that they would allow and participate in mass murder? Post-war scholars of totalitarianism like Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt asked that question over and over, for several decades afterward. Their earliest studies on the subject looked at two sides of the equation. Adorno contributed to a massive volume of social psychology called The Authoritarian Personality, which studied individuals predisposed to the appeals of totalitarianism. He invented what he called the F-Scale (“F” for “fascism”), one of several measures he used to theorize the Authoritarian Personality Type.

Arendt, on the other hand, looked closely at the regimes of Hitler and Stalin and their functionaries, at the ideology of scientific racism, and at the mechanism of propaganda in fostering “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism with which each member… is expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders.” So she wrote in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism, going on to elaborate that this “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity. “The great analysts of truth and language in politics”—writes McGill University political philosophy professor Jacob T. Levy—including “George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel—can help us recognize this kind of lie for what it is…. Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”

Arendt and others recognized, writes Levy, that “being made to repeat an obvious lie makes it clear that you’re powerless.” She also recognized the function of an avalanche of lies to render a populace powerless to resist, the phenomenon we now refer to as “gaslighting”:

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.

The epistemological ground thus pulled out from under them, most would depend on whatever the leader said, no matter its relation to truth. “The essential conviction shared by all ranks,” Arendt concluded, “from fellow traveler to leader, is that politics is a game of cheating and that the ‘first commandment’ of the movement: ‘The Fuehrer is always right,’ is as necessary for the purposes of world politics, i.e., world-wide cheating, as the rules of military discipline are for the purposes of war.”

“We too,” writes Jeffrey Isaacs at The Washington Post, “live in dark times”—an allusion to another of Arendt’s sobering analyses—“even if they are different and perhaps less dark.” Arendt wrote Origins of Totalitarianism from research and observations gathered during the 1940s, a very specific historical period. Nonetheless the book, Isaacs remarks, “raises a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise and the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead.” Arendt’s analysis of propaganda and the function of lies seems particularly relevant at this moment. The kinds of blatant lies she wrote of might become so commonplace as to become banal. We might begin to think they are an irrelevant sideshow. This, she suggests, would be a mistake.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2017.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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