Year 12 Inspire – The Bodleian Library

About The Bodleian Library:

The Bodleian Library has functioned as the main library service for the University of Oxford for over 400 years. Along with 27 linked libraries across the city, it maintains a unique book collection to sustain groundbreaking university learning and research. In doing so, The Bodleian represents the biggest academic library in the UK, holding rare collections & manuscripts, over 13 million print items, and more than 80,000 e-journals.  

Activity 1 – Interactive Tour:

The Bodleian website hosts a great interactive tour which allows users to explore different sections of the library. Users can browse each room, reading labels which provide more context and information regarding the history and function of the building.  

Activity 2 – The Art of Advertising

This resource explores a diverse range of advertising from the mid-18th century to the 1930s. In doing so, it follows its development from a pioneering printing medium to its widespread commercial boom. As ephemeral promotional materials, adverts are not typically created with longevity in mind. However, those which are preserved offer valuable insight into historical social contexts and attitudes. Adverts reinforce dominant perspectives and offer representations of idealised lives. In doing so, they hide as much detail as they exaggerate, which makes for interesting investigation. 


Activity 2 highlights how adverts can offer clues regarding dominant social attitudes and practices. Using a search engine, select another advert of your choice and consider the following questions:

  • Why has the featured individual / image been chosen? What ideals do they represent? 
  • What colours have been used? What connotations might these have which benefit the product? 
  • Who / What is absent from the advert? What might this indicate about the social context in which the advert was produced?  
  • How does the advert appeal to its target audience? 

Reflect upon these questions and write your ideas down.