Free online resources for stay-at-home enjoyment

The recent announcement by major Canadian telecommunication companies that they are waiving internet overage charges because of the pandemic is welcome news. Not only is it welcome to those who are working from home, but also other shut-ins who want an alternative to television as a source for their entertainment.

For the latter, it is good to know that there is an abundant supply of free online sources of books, music and movies that can help fill the gap caused through virtual imprisonment.

Among these that this writer has found to be virtual treasure troves are:


  1. The Internet Archive

This is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites and more. It even has a section providing access to historical PC games. Want a trip down memory lane? Look at demos for Sim City, Call of Duty and many others.

If you feel inclined to use  your spare time to start a major research project, it will also  link you to the libraries of many major universities.


  1. YouTube   

Everybody has heard of YouTube but how many of you know that it is much, much more than short informational and quirky videos? Think of your favourite musical artist(s) and simply type their name(s) in the search bar. It is likely you will then be given a choice of dozens or even more of their videos, including live performances. If your taste veers more towards the classical, simply type in a composer’s name and in short order you will be able to listen to a full symphony concert from one of the world’s great orchestras. If you are fortunate to be able to play it back through a home theatre system, that concert can be heard  in  surround sound that realistically places you right smack in the auditorium. It too has free movies.


  1. Art Galleries and Museums

Most of the world’s leading art galleries and museums provide online virtual tours. In recognition of the fact that access to the originals is out of reach for now, The Guardian newspaper has recently published an article listing ten of the best with links to them. Click HERE to see.    If you have always wanted to go to the Vatican Museums or to London’s National Gallery, now is your chance in the comfort of your own home to marvel at the riches they contain.

While you’re online you can also learn more about the Valley’s history by checking out a few virtual museum exhibits from some of the 27 museums and local heritage organizations in the Renfrew County Museums Network.


  1. Books      

If you are a member of the Madawaska Valley Public Library, you can access a variety of resources on the library’s website. Click HERE for their e-resources page which includes access to OverDrive for downloads of e-books and audio books, and EBSCO to download current magazines via Flipster, World Book, Mango to learn a language, and Tumblebooks for children and teens. New resources are being added regularly.

In addition to that, there are many other online sources of free books including the Internet Archive referred to above – if you just google “Free online books” you will find enough choices to satisfy every taste.

Some of these, including Internet Archive and Project Guttenberg, enable you to read the books online without having to download them.

  1. Podcasts

There’s an enormous world of podcasts out there that you can either stream or download to listen at your leisure. Lately Valley attention has focused on the free podcasts about local history to be found on The Opeongo Line. Although the Railway Station and other venues for recording in front of a live audience are not available just now, new recordings are still being produced. Check the latest Rural Routes episode about the history of women’s hockey in the Valley She shoots! she scores! on The Opeongo Line.

This list is by no means exhaustive and readers are invited to add recommendations of their own in the Comments section below.

Enjoy … while staying healthy!




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