UPDATED! Walk Like an Egyptian: A Visit to the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Second Life (and Some Free Egyptian Outfits!)

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!)

The hypothetical historical recreation of the Library of Alexandria in Second Life

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!

UPDATED: The Community Virtual Library Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary in Second Life Today with the Grand Opening of Their New Library Building!

The Community Virtual Library in Second Life is throwing a party to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, and as part of the celebration, they are unveiling a new library building!

On their blog I found the following announcement:

Community Virtual Library is celebrating 15 years in the virtual world of Second Life, sharing resources as a “real library in a virtual world”. Librarians are exploring virtual environments both on desktop and in VR headset worlds as we expand library services beyond our physical walls. Come join us to share our memories of the past and exciting plans for the future.

WHEN:  SUN April 18th Noon-2pm Pacific Time.

I paid an early morning visit to take the following photographs to share with you. Located just outside the main entrance is a “walk of fame” with the names of those library workers who played an noteworthy role in the provision of library service in Second Life over the past 15 years:

Here are a few more shots of the interior of the library:

Clicking on any of the books brings up a menu to take you to the electronic full-text of that book (usually served via Project Gutenberg or OpenLibrary.org):

An outside stairway takes you up to the second floor of the library, with a lovely patio and a spacious reading room:

Here’s the SLURL which will take you to the new library! The celebration runs from noon to 2:00 p.m. Second Life Time/Pacific Time. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE 2:23 p.m.: Here are a few more pictures of Valibrarian Gregg leading a tour group through the new library and its surrounding gardens (please click on each thumbnail for a larger version). I’m the tall one in the green suit!

Pandemic Diary, April 5th, 2021: So Close, So Close and Yet So Far

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I will be going back on my self-imposed break from blogging.

My eyes adored you
Though I never laid a hand on you,
My eyes adored you
Like a million miles away from me you couldn’t see
How I adored you…
So close, so close and yet so far

My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Today is officially Day 386 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system. Since my last Pandemic Diary post, two significant things have occurred:

  1. On March 18th I received my first vaccine shot, and
  2. On March 22nd, I returned to my office at the University of Manitoba Libraries for the first time in over a year.

As someone who is older (age 57), and with several underlying health conditions which put me at risk of a severe, possibly even fatal, response to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (I am severely overweight, plus I have asthma, hypertension, and type II diabetes), I was among the first Manitobans under the age of 60 to get vaccinated at my local pharmacy. I received the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with a follow-up shot sometime in July.

I have been following the news reports of possible blood clots in a few people who have received the vaccine, and I am not worried; I know that the chance of me getting a blood clot from the AstraZenca vaccine is much lower than the chance of me getting a blood clot from COVID-19! As a science librarian, I trust the science behind the vaccines, and I am eagerly looking forward to getting my second dose.

Canadians are watching the U.S. roll out an aggressive vaccination campaign with envy. Canada is far, FAR behind the U.S., the U.K., and other countries in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Up here in Canada, we already have had serious outbreaks of variants of concern from the U.K. and Brazil in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, and it seems all but certain the we will experience a third wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths here in Manitoba soon, with a third lockdown (and we never really opened back up from the second lockdown imposed in early November!). We are, indeed, so close and yet so far. It is frustrating beyond belief!

As for my return to the office, I was sitting on the fence about taking an extended sick leave for treatment of depression, when my supervisor told me that the buildings on campus could now be staffed at 40% of regular occupancy (up from 25%). I leapt at the opportunity to be able to work outside my home, after over a year of working from my home, being stuck within the same four walls day after day! I am starting off with just one day a week in the office, but I do have the option of coming in more frequently than that (at least, until the third lockdown happens, and it will).

In fact, the mood improved immediately after spending just one day back in my office, chatting with the few coworkers who are here (masked and socially distanced chats, but still, actual face-to-face conversations!). I even wandered around the library, taking a few snaphots. My office looks much the same as when I left it over a year ago, in near-pristine condition which will not last very long:

My library is still closed to non-librarian faculty, non-Libraries staff, and all students. The library, usually a quiet place even when it was full of students, is now eerily silent:

And I finally brought my work Oculus Rift VR headset back into the office from my apartment, where I had taken it when the pandemic started in March 2020, and spent part of my day today setting it up again. I popped into AltspaceVR and Nature Treks VR, and of course Sansar, just to test that everything was working okay. Instead of having to install countless updates to my Sansar client which had occurred during my yearlong absence from the office, I simply deleted the program and reinstalled it from scratch from the Sansar website, and then I paid a visit to my world, Ryan’s Garden, and its animated carousel, still one of my most cherished virtual possessions!

Yes, I do still have an Oculus Rift headset, which I had originally purchased for my suspended research project. I have an Oculus account for it, and I have absolutely ZERO plans to set up an account on the Facebook social network for it! Good thing that I don’t need to make any account decisions for at least another two years, during which time I will probably spend some of my accumulated Travel & Expense funds to upgrade the Rift to a Valve Index, like I now have at home. This Rift is my final link to Facebook, and I am itching to get rid of it! (I have yet to come up with a new, replacement research project involving virtual reality and libraries, but I have a few ideas.)

Stay safe and stay healthy!

San José State University School of Information’s Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration Is Holding a Research Symposium in Second Life on October 24th, 2020

While I have written in the past about the use of Second Life by librarians who have set up virtual public and academic libraries, it should be noted that SL has also been home to not just libraries, but also museums and archives of various kinds throughout its 17-year history.

The School of Information (iSchool) at San José State University (SJSU) in California, which offers a Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) degree program, runs the Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration (VCARA) in Second Life, which describes itself as follows:

An iSchool student group, VCARA is a MARA-created space and community based in the virtual world Second Life (SL). We offer many resources both in SL and online including annual conferences, events, exhibits, trainings, and webcasts. VCARA is open to all students, alumni, educators, and other professionals interested in virtual worlds and any aspect of information science including archives, education, and libraries.

The SJSU School of Library and Information Sciences in Second Life

On October 24th, 2020, VCARA will be hosting an event titled XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium:

Plan now to attend the XR: Bridging the Gap Research Symposium on October 24, 2020, from 9 a.m. to noon SLT (Pacific Time).

Venue: VCARA’s XR Research Center in SL on the SJSU SLIS sim (SLURL)

The goal of this symposium is to provide a venue for members of Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality communities to share accomplishments and challenges and to learn from one another.

9 a.m. – 10 a.m. – Keynote Address

10 – 10:45 a.m. – Birds of a Feather 

– Accessibility
– Networking/Communities of Practice
– Content Creation/Building

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Lightning Poster Session followed by a trip to Mozilla Hubs (with our without your headsets)

I have accepted an invitation to be a co-host of one of the Birds of a Feather discussion sessions taking place, on the topic of Networking and Professional Development in Virtual Worlds and Virtual Reality (along with Bethany Winslow, an Instructional Designer at San José State University). The BoaF sessions will be approximately 45 minutes in a breakout room, after which we will join up again in the main room to give a 5 minute recap of the important aspects of each BoaF.

The event is free, and everyone who is interested in the topic of virtual worlds and virtual reality in archives, education, and libraries is welcome to attend! To find out how you can become involved, please contact Dr. Patricia Franks, at the SJSU iSchool.