The National Trust has launched six Zoom backgrounds to make it look like video callers are sitting in some of England’s most opulent buildings.
Fans of historic homes are being invited by the charity to “bring a bit of extra interest to your calls and online catch-ups” by transporting themselves to libraries and workspaces dating back hundreds of years.
Among the backgrounds, which are free to download, are Agatha Christie’s library at Greenway House in Devon, where the writer spent holidays with her family. She described it as “the loveliest place in the world”.
Another is Vita Sackville-West’s writing room in the tower at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. There are 11,000 books at Sissinghurst and the collection includes more than 30 books by Virginia Woolf, W.H.Auden, D.H.Lawrence, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Stephen Spender.
Other options are the Trust’s largest library at Blickling Estate in Norfolk, Wimpole Hall’s library in Cambridgeshire, and the library at Townend, Cumbria.
Perhaps the most interesting background is the ‘Office of the Caretaker of the Electric Light’ at Cragside in Northumberland.
Surrounded by beautiful panelled wood, the room was used by Victorian inventor Lord Armstrong’s electric light caretaker and was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.
“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,” said Katie Knowles, assistant curator at the National Trust.
“When the lockdown in England ends we’ll be reopening as many houses as we can – in the meantime we hope the new backgrounds will help people to remember the places they love and to share them with colleagues and friends.”
National Trust houses were closed at the beginning of lockdown on Nov 5. However, visitors are still able to visit the charity’s outdoor spaces and enjoy takeaway food from their cafes.
The rise of video app Zoom as a hub for lockdown conference calls, virtual pub quizzes and Cabinet meetings has sent the company’s revenues soaring in recent months.
“The Covid-19 crisis has driven higher demand for distributed, face-to-face interactions and collaboration using Zoom,” chief executive Eric Yuan said.
“Use cases have grown rapidly as people integrated Zoom into their work, learning, and personal lives.”