Much like backing up your own data, there are people who back up things they love. From album liner notes and book covers to old maps and newspapers, you’ll find fascinating old records of anything online.
You can almost take it for granted that nothing is truly deleted from the internet. But while the internet backs itself up, external data isn’t like that. Someone has to scan old documents, record and upload audio, and categorize it all thoroughly. That’s what makes these projects worth a look.
Old Maps Online (Web): Historical Maps of the World
People have been making maps of the world since before learning that the Earth was round. You can take a trip into the past by looking at such historical cartography at Old Maps Online, which aggregates links to old maps on different parts of the internet.
It works a bit like Google Maps. Search for a location and you’ll be transported to its current map. On the right, you’ll see a list of old maps for that location. Click any map you want to see to be taken to a different site that hosts the old map.
You can pan and scan the map as you would with Google Maps, and even zoom to smaller areas within cities. If there’s a corresponding old map somewhere on the internet for that location, this site will find it.
Newspaper Archive (Web): Read Old, Defunct Newspapers
Old newspapers that are still active, like The New York Times, let you access their old issues on their sites. But what about newspapers that have shut down? You can find many of those at the Newspaper Archive.
While it’s an international site with publications from across the world, it’s best used to find U.S. newspapers. You can filter the papers by city or search for any words you’re looking for. The Newspaper Archive is a little difficult to browse at first, so you’ll need to learn how to use it well if you want to actually use it for research.
Instead of research, have fun with this blast from the past. It’s quite cool to look at publications from a particular region, with their old design and the type of news that got printed.
Conserve The Sound (Web): Saving Sounds From Extinction
As technology moves rapidly to the next innovation, old ones live on only as photos. But what about their sound? Whether it’s the whirring of an old rotary phone or the screech of a 56K dial-up modem connecting to the internet, Conserve The Sound is saving these audio memories from extinction.
The project covers a variety of sounds, usually from objects that are no longer used regularly. You’ll see a picture of the object, along with a 30-second audio clip. The project also includes videos with people talking about their association with sounds. The videos are in German, but there are English subtitles.
Conserve The Sound’s media is copyrighted, so don’t use these without permission. If you need a sound, email them or try these free sources for audio clips and sound effects.
Book Cover Archive (Web): Repository of Cover Designs
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge the cover itself. Publishers and authors spend hours designing the perfect cover for a book so that it catches your eye. If you love the art of book covers, check the Book Cover Archive for some of the best jackets.
You can simply browse through the various covers on display, or search for your favorite book to see if there’s an offbeat or better-than-normal cover that you didn’t know about. Personally, I just liked going through page after page of clever designs.
Of course, it’s not only book covers that are being saved on the internet. Google is digitizing all the books it can lay its hands on, and there is the celebrated Project Gutenberg for old books, which is actually more than just free books.
Album Liner Notes (Web): Music Is Digital, Liner Notes Should Be Too
You can’t beat the convenience of streaming unlimited music. But since we don’t buy music anymore, we’ve lost one of the best off-shoots of records, cassettes, and CDs: liner notes. Well, at least someone is trying to save them online.
Album Liner Notes usually focuses on CD liner notes, but that’s fine. Liner notes include the album art, lyrics to songs, and even letters and notes from the band. It’s a more personal experience of buying music, and it’s one of the reasons why people still love vinyl.
Apart from liner notes, people on the internet are also trying to save the experience of music itself. For example, there are online radio stations that jump back in time, such as Radiooooo, which plays radio playlists from particular decades.
Head to The Internet Archive for More
These sites try to protect things that were not a part of the internet to begin with or at least weren’t created for the internet. But there are others who focus on protecting the history of the internet itself.
Of these, The Internet Archive is probably the most famous. If you haven’t been there yet, that’s the place to go to. It has a treasure-trove of free content riches, including the ever-popular Wayback Machine that lets you see what web pages looked like in the past.