In the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to see a historical collection (if it was freely available to the public — including the ones which are radioactive), then you had to travel to where the collection was located, and view it in person. But now that we are in the Brave New World of the Internet, everything is now slowly being digitized, so that anyone with a decent Internet collection can view them. Seeing these collections up close and personal enables you to take a peek inside that person’s life and mind, and see their thoughts and reasoning. It can be a fascinating process.
Today on Cool Websites & Apps, we are going to take a look at 5 online sources where you can view digitized historical collections. 3 sites dedicated to one collection each, and the remaining two are august institutions who are going all out to get their collections on display online.
We start with Charles Darwin, whose book, “On The Origin Of Species“, established an evolutionary theory called “natural selection”, and that all species of life descended over time from common ancestors. He is also famous for his five year voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, including a visit to the Galapagos Islands, fame which led him to be buried in Westminster Abbey, close to Isaac Newton.
This site shows his scientific manuscripts, including manuscripts for his “On The Origin Of Species” book.
Virtually everyone on the planet has heard of Albert Einstein, probably the most famous scientist in history. He developed the “General Theory of Relativity“, received a Nobel Prize for physics, produced hundreds of scientific papers, and was widely considered the greatest genius ever, so much so that when he died in 1955, his brain was taken and dissected for examination.
This site hosts over 30,000 documents relating to Einstein’s life, from his birth certificate to letters sent to colleagues. My one and only complaint about this site is that it does not show the original documents — rather transcribed pages instead (plus it is currently only up to 1923, which shows it is still a work in progress). Still, it is nonetheless fascinating.
Francis Crick, along with his colleague James Watson, made what was arguably the greatest scientific discovery of the 20th century — the double helix. You may know it as DNA, the one thing which is tripping up criminals everywhere, as they leave their saliva, hair, and skin lying around. The genetic code is leading us to understand the human body better, and to scientific advances such as genetic engineering, and the mapping of the human genome.
The design of the website is not exactly great, but the manuscripts are first class, in high definition format.
Established in 1973, the British Library holds over 170 million items, and is the largest library in the world, if you rank libraries by number of items catalogued. And now some of those collections are starting to come online, so you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. You can turn the pages of old books, and view online exhibitions, such as maps of London, or original prints of Victorian Britain.
Last but not least, we come to the Library of Congress, which is another famous world library based in the United States. It houses every aspect of American culture (including archiving Twitter tweets), as well as books, newspapers, audio recordings, video recordings, photographs, and a whole lot more.
These are only 5 digital historical sources, but there are many more out there in the world. Which ones are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.