This is a blogpost that I have been sitting on for a while, from a tour I took last March, which I only found the time to finish editing this afternoon. It’s a long blogpost, so go get some coffee and settle in!
The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, a division of the American Library Association) has a Virtual Worlds Interest Group (VWIG) which provides an opportunity for academic librarians with virtual world interests and responsibilities to have a place in ACRL to network, share information, ask questions, and work on special projects and programs relevant to academic libraries. The Interest Group also works to promote the various uses of virtual environments to potential and current academic librarians and to improve information literacy specifically in virtual worlds. The ACRL VWIG sponsors events, programs and meetings held mainly within the virtual world of Second Life and explores other developing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality environments.
On March 17th, 2021, I participated in an ACRL Virtual Worlds Interest Group-sponsored tour of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Second Life.
Here’s your taxi to the Info Hub for the sprawling complex of sims that is home to the Library, where there is a panel taking you to six different areas (3 for ancient Egyptian Alexandria, and 3 for ancient Greece):
Or, if you want to travel there directly, here’s the exact SLURL to the Library of Alexandria. (The entire set of sims is well worth a wander, however! Set aside a couple of hours, and if your avatar should need some appropriate historical attire, just scroll down to the end of this blogpost for some freebies for men and women!)
Here’s a bit of background on the library complex and its historical significance (I believe I picked up this notecard at the site of the library in Second Life):
The Musaeum or Mouseion at Alexandria (Ancient Greek: Μουσεῖον τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας), which included the famous Library of Alexandria, was an institution said to have been founded by Ptolemy I Soter. This original Musaeum (“Institution of the Muses”) was the home of music or poetry, a philosophical school and library such as Plato’s Academy, and also a storehouse of texts. It did not have a collection of works of art; rather it was an institution that brought together some of the best scholars of the Hellenistic world, analogous to a modern university. This original Musaeum was the source for the modern usage of the word museum.
The idea of collecting all the past Greek literature at Alexandria had also a very important ideological goal, since it presented the Ptolemaic capital as the legitimate heir of ancient Greece. The Ptolemaic capital emerged as the hub of the latest discoveries in many fields. Ptolemaic patronage was central to the growing prestige of Alexandria in Hellenistic scientific development.
it was most likely founded by Ptolemy I (306–282 bce) (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 5.8.11), and Ptolemy II (282–246 bce) might have developed it further.
The Hellenistic kings also fostered ‘scientific research’, especially the Ptolemies who founded the Museum on the model of the Mouseia of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Peripatos (Plut. Non posse 1095d). The Ptolemies, were particularly active in promoting scholarship, with the result that scientific and technical knowledge flourished under their rule. They funded research institutions such as the Library, providing scholars with funds and the necessary tools (i.e. books) for carrying out their research (direct patronage). Despite the gaps in our evidence, the Ptolemies seem indeed to stand out for their scientific patronage, both because they were the first to embark on such a project, and because they did so to a far greater extent than the other Hellenistic rulers. It eventually left an enduring legacy in science and scholarship
A second library in the Serapeum, the temple of Serapis, was probably founded by Ptolemy III (246–222 bce). The Royal Library was led by a head librarian, perhaps called προστάτης τῆς βιβλιοθήκης, who was appointed by the king and also served as royal tutor. Ptolemy III had issued an order that all books on ships arriving at Alexandria had to be taken and copied: the originals would be kept in the Library and only the copies returned to the owners.
More than 1,000 scholars lived in the Mouseion at a given time. Staff members and scholars were salaried by the Mouseion and paid no taxes. They also received free meals, free room and board, and free servants. The Mouseion was administered by a priest appointed by the Pharaoh.
The Mouseion’s scholars conducted scientific research, published, lectured, and collected as much literature as possible from the known world. In addition to Greek works, foreign texts were translated from Assyrian, Persian, Jewish, Indian languages, and other sources. The edited versions of the Greek literary canon that we know today, from Homer and Hesiod forward, exist in editions that were collated and corrected by the scholars assembled in the Musaeum at Alexandria.
Here is an edited transcript of our guided library tour, along with some pictures I took. Ellen of Sparta was our tour guide:
Ellen of Sparta: Welcome! Ok… so, lets start. I want to welcome you, to this Tour of the Great Library. This past weekend, in the USA, we set our clocks for spring, by moving one hour ahead, for Daylight Savings Time. And now, since all of you have arrived safely, I will suggest that you move your clocks back by 2063 years, as we live in the year 42 BC. This is an ancient region and the architecture and lifestyles, reflect this time. I would like to make some formal introductions and explain a little about what we do here. We are a region of 3 sims, representing two Kingdoms, Egypt (Alexandreia, where we are now) and Greece (Sparta and Delos, adjacent). We are roleplay sims, dedicated to a realistic recreation of this era of history.
Ryan Schultz: Do we have to take part in the roleplay?
Ellen of Sparta: You do not.
Ryan Schultz: Or can we just observe?
Ellen of Sparta: You can visit. Also we have a mix of activities that complement our roleplay including special events, lectures, armies and tournaments, re-enactments of religious rituals, museums, belly dance every Sunday, and modern club events. The Queen and sim owner of two sims, Alexandreia and Rhakotis (representing Egypt) is a lady who has a passion for this historical era, Queen Kleopatra T. Philopator. It was her vision, that led to the creation of Alexandreia, and this Great Library and these two sims of Egypt. I am Queen and sim owner of Greece (Sparta and Delos) which are adjacent. In my sim are two Greek regions of fame, the city state of Sparta, and the sacred island of Delos, located in the Aegean Sea. I encourage you, in your free time to visit and tour.
Valibrarian Gregg: We want to share this space with other educators and librarians
Ellen of Sparta: We have 2 groups, one for Egypt, and one for Greece.. I can add anyone to both and, then you see our notices, for all events
Ellen of Sparta: In the plaza below, where you arrived…we have a statue of Plato, an Exhibit Area, & a Classroom. We also have amphitheaters for lectures. This building… we are in is based our Library upon the one from the film 2009 “Agora” (starring Rachel Weisz & directed by Alejandro Amenabar). This was a movie set.. but well done, so our architect, copied it for here. Once the largest library in the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria contained works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity, including Homer, Plato, Socrates and many others. Alexandria was considered the capital of knowledge and learning for several centuries, in part because of this library. Originally, this was called the “Mouseion” named after, the “muses”.
Ryan Schultz: Fascinating
Ellen of Sparta: And we get the word, museum, from the Muses
Ryan Schultz: And of course museums and libraries are still closely linked today in many places
Ellen of Sparta: It was actually part of a larger complex, known as the Museum of Alexandria and included rooms for the study of astronomy, anatomy, and even a zoo containing exotic animals. While no one knows for sure, the library may have held from 40,000 to 400,000 to 700,000 papyrus scrolls. It was, in its day, the premier library [in the world].
Ellen of Sparta: So, as you look around… the porch, where you came in, has 4 Caryatids at the entry (draped female figures, inspired by the Erechtheion, the Porch of the Maidens, located in Athens). Within the Library are bookcases filled with Scrolls. On the floor of the Library is a mosaic of a Medusa Head (Roman 2nd-3rd century AD, the original is in the Sousse Archaeological Museum, Tunisia). And on the walls are reproductions of ancient egyptian Heiorglyphs.
Ryan Schultz: I wonder how they kept track of everything here, they must have had some sort of library catalogue
Ellen of Sparta: Our growing library contains one of the largest collection of notecards [text files] in Second Life. Yes Ryan, I can answer that. So, there was a Head Librarian appointed by the Pharaoh and, under his authority, he, himself, or, one of his staff, were in charge of cataloguing. Some spent all their time, cataloging the scrolls.
Ryan Schultz: I bet…400,000 to 700,000 [scrolls] is a LOT.
Ellen of Sparta: With such a large number of scrolls.. yes.. it was a huge task
Ryan Schultz: I had heard they even forced ships to deliver all their scrolls here for copying before they were allowed to leave
Ellen of Sparta: That is true
Masokomi Kiyori: It is thought that approximately 100 people may have worked here.
Ellen of Sparta: We are thinking, at any one time, there may have been up to 1000 in the Library and Mousieion (University).So, it was, a campus. It was, in fact, one of the original research universities in the world, and endured hundreds of years, from Ptolemy I until about 400 AD, so a span of roughly 700 years.
Ellen of Sparta: Our growing library contains one of the largest collection of Notecards in Second Life. This is an active library; you can come, and do research.
The Library is open to all. No library card is required!!!
Ryan Schultz: How did I not know this was here? I’ve been in SL 14 *years* now and this is the first I have heard of it!
Valibrarian Gregg: yes Ryan! That is a huge problem! we don’t know about all the great education sims! That is why we formed the Virtual World Education Consortium and I will talk with Ellen later about it- to promote this 🙂
Ellen of Sparta: In front of each bookcase… is a podium, with the topic.” Touch” a bookcase behind one of the subjects displayed (Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ptolemy, Festivals of Egypt, or Alexandria),
Ellen of Sparta: So, did everyone click on a bookcase? So, you should have seen a menu, and each bookcase is a different subject matter. There are hundreds of notecards [text files] here, and a few images, but mostly notecards. So, what we want to do, is replicate the idea , of the original Library of Alexandreia…and that is, to become, the premier storehouse of info, on the ancient world
Zoe Foodiboo: I love that this library is beautiful and useful!
Ryan Schultz: Yes so do I!
Masokomi Kiyori: Does Alexandria accept scrolls from outside parties on related topics?
Ellen of Sparta: Yes
Valibrarian Gregg: So happy to have found this amazing simulation! Thank you so much Ellen of Sparta!
Ellen of Sparta: You are welcome, Val.
If you wish to pay a visit the Library of Alexandria or other ancient Egyptian historical and roleplay sims in Second Life, you can pick up some free outfits for your trip! Teleport here to the Temple of Nefertari sim, and click on the signs below to pick up some free Egyptian sandals for men and women:
And, right next door at this SLURL, click on this sign to join the Temple of Nefertari group for free:
With that group active, on the opposite wall of this room you can pick up three female outfits and one male outfit for free!
The Egyptian Formal ladieswear includes the wrist and ankle cuffs shown, and the package even includes a braided wig to finish off the look! The ornate gold-and-white dress and jeweled collar comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Belleza Freya, Venus, and Isis; Tonic Curvy and Fine; eBody; Ocacin; and the Meshbody Classic/TMP mesh bodies, plus five standard sizes. (This avatar is also wearing the free ladies’ sandals I picked up earlier, which come in sizes to fit Belleza, Maitreya, and Slink mesh feet).
The Egyptian Girl outfit consists of a linen skirt and top, and also includes wrist and ankle bands (not shown, they are similar to the previous picture), plus the short black wig shown. This outfit comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Slink Physique and Hourglass; Belleza Freya, Venus, and Isis; and the Meshbody Classic/TMP bodies.
Note that both the white top and and the white skirt are tintable and texturable, so you can recolour and repattern these pieces for use with other outfits!
Here’s what the free men’s outfit looks like, with the free sandals I mentioned earlier. The tunic comes in five standard sizes, and the sandals come in versions to fit Belleza, Signature, Slink, Adin, Onupup, and Ocacin mesh feet. (I had a bit of trouble getting this tunic to fit right on the shoulder area of this Altamura men’s mesh body, but at least I was able to get a good picture for the blog!)
UPDATE Oct. 13th, 2021: If you are shopping for Egyptian outfits, there’s a new, free group gift over at the Virtual Diva store of this costume (the Virtual Diva group is free to join).
Here’s a closer look at the outfit, which includes the wristband and the helmet (the Egyptian sandals are the freebie ones I picked up at the Temple of Nefertari sim):
Happy freebie shopping!