Introducing Booksnake

Booksnake lets you place a digitized archival item on your real-world desk. Just tap to anchor, then use your iPhone or iPad to explore. Get close and focus on fine details. Step back for an overview. Or walk around to see it from all sides. As you move, Booksnake keeps the virtual item pinned in place—exactly where you want it.

Booksnake is a digital humanities experiment in how spatial computing can enrich archival research. The Booksnake app is currently in beta testing at the University of Southern California. Want to know when Booksnake opens to public beta testing, or when it launches on the App Store? Join our email list and we’ll keep you updated.

Your Archives, Anywhere

With Booksnake, you can easily view millions of digitized archival items in augmented reality. Booksnake works by connecting the International Image Interoperability Framework—an open standard used by dozens of leading libraries, museums, and archives around the world—with the powerful augmented reality technology built into every recent iPhone and iPad.

Booksnake works with any flat surface. Just tap “View in AR” and point your iPhone or iPad camera at the surface you want to use. Explore an archival map on a picnic table. Browse a historical newspaper on your kitchen counter. Unfold a medieval manuscript on your bed. Booksnake lets you interact with digital sources as if they’re physically present in your real-world environment.

Explore the World’s Archives

Search key collections and add items from right within Booksnake. Booksnake currently supports Direct Search for the Library of Congress, with more archives on the way. Tap +, then tap the name of the archive you want to search. (Interested in adding your archive to Direct Search? Let’s talk!)

Booksnake also works with the International Image Interoperability Framework, used by dozens of libraries, archives, and museums all over the world. Tap +, then tap “Add from IIIF,” and type or paste your item’s IIIF manifest URL. For a full list of IIIF consortium members and instructions on finding an item’s IIIF manifest URL, visit

Bring Students and Sources Together

Bring the joy of archival discovery into your classroom. With Booksnake, your students can easily explore primary sources relevant to your course. Booksnake allows each student to have a personal experience with archival material—whether you’re teaching an intimate seminar or the most popular lecture on campus.

Students can use their personal iPhones and iPads by downloading Booksnake from the App Store.* (Interested in adding Booksnake to your institution’s managed devices? Let’s talk!)

* Booksnake is currently in limited beta testing. Join our email list to hear when it’s released.

A Document Camera for Virtual Documents

Booksnake works by dynamically inserting digitized archival material into the camera view on your iPhone or iPad. Show your audience what you see in Booksnake by mirroring your iPhone or iPad screen to a nearby TV or projector with AirPlay, or by sharing your iPhone or iPad screen during a video call. You can also capture screenshots and screen recordings to save what you see and share it later.

Booksnake makes it easy to present your favorite sources. Guide students through a birds-eye-view map. Bring an archival manuscript into a conference presentation. Lead a tour of historical photographs. Or share what you see with Booksnake on social media.


How can I get Booksnake?
Booksnake is currently in beta testing. Join our email list to learn when Booksnake opens to public beta testing and when it becomes available on the App Store.

Will my device work with Booksnake? 
Booksnake requires iOS 14 or later and is available for the following devices:

  • iPhone 6S or later
  • iPad Pro (all models)
  • iPad (fifth generation, 2017) or later
  • iPad Mini (fifth generation, 2019) or later
  • iPad Air (third generation, 2019) or later

Booksnake is not available for iPod Touch.

Is Booksnake available for Android devices?
Booksnake is currently available only for iPhone and iPad. 

Can I add my own images to Booksnake?
Not at the moment. Booksnake is a viewer for existing digitized materials in online collections. Booksnake can only display items with an IIIF manifest, which contains information about what the item is and how to display it. Visit for instructions on how to find an item’s IIIF manifest. 

This archive supports IIIF, so why can’t I add an item from its collections to Booksnake? 
Some archives only support IIIF for some items in their collections. Contact the archive directly for more information.

Meet the People Behind Booksnake

Booksnake is designed and built by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Southern California.

  • Sean Fraga, Ph.D., project director. Mellon postdoctoral fellow, Humanities in a Digital World program, USC Dornsife.
  • Christy Ye, iOS developer. MFA candidate, Interactive Media & Games, USC School of Cinematic Arts.
  • Shih-Hsuan Huang, iOS developer. MS candidate, Computer Science, USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
  • Samir Ghosh. Assistant Director, Ahmanson Lab, USC Libraries.
  • Curtis Fletcher, Ph.D. Director, Ahmanson Lab, USC Libraries.
  • Senior advisor: Peter Mancall, Ph.D. Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, professor of history and anthropology at USC, and the Linda and Harlan Martens Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

The Booksnake advisory board includes Rebecca Corbett, Japanese Studies Librarian at USC Libraries; Phil Ethington, Professor of History, Political Science, and Spatial Sciences in USC Dornsife; and Louise Smith, Digital Library Project Manager at USC Libraries.

The Booksnake project is supported by the Humanities in a Digital World program in USC Dornsife and by the Ahmanson Lab, a part of the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study in USC Libraries.