Digital Resources at the British Library

The British Library is conscious that making its resources available online is crucial if it is to respond to the demands of the ‘Google Generation’ and to retain its role in supporting the UK knowledge infrastructure. Lynne Brindley, DBE, Chief Executive of the British Library, said recently, “we have adopted the digital mindset and have seized many of the opportunities new technology offers to inspire our users to learn, discover and innovate.”

Digitisation is bringing new opportunities to explore sound and image archives, manuscripts and rare materials in new ways, and opens up fresh possibilities for classroom teaching. The British Library is developing an ever-growing range of online collections, providing a vital resource for teaching, learning and research, and some of these are described briefly below.

If you are already using one of these resources in your teaching, the English Subject Centre would welcome a contribution to its database ‘T3 – Teaching, Topics and Texts’ or a case study (for which £150 is paid).

Turning the Pages
Explore unique treasures held at the British Library online, leaf through ancient manuscripts and magnify the details. Highlights include William Blake’s sketchbook, Jane Austen’s handwritten History of England and glimpses of medieval life from the Luttrell Psalter.

Hidden Treasures Brought to Life
Explore some of the treasures hidden in public libraries across the UK, which were revealed in 2007 following a competition held by the British Library, in collaboration with the Society of Chief Librarians, Scottish library authorities and Microsoft.

The winning entries include the Diaries of William Searell of Beddgelert 1844–1846, which vividly depict Welsh rural life in the mid-19th century, as seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy. Also included are the Dorset Federation of Women’s Institutes’ War Records 1939–1945, a compelling snapshot of life on the Home Front, illustrated throughout with photographs and beautiful drawings by hand and containing stories of evacuees, jam making, enemy air men, barrage balloons and the coming of the US Army.

Sounds Familiar?
Explore the richness of regional and ethnic minority speech from across the UK, along with case studies and learning activities geared towards A Level and undergraduate English language students.

Collect Britain
Access thousands of items relating to the language, culture and history of Britain. Highlights include extracts of regional dialects, documenting how we spoke and lived in the 20th century, illustrations from medieval manuscripts and a selection of maps and images dating from ad 800.

Archival Sound Recordings
Listen to thousands of recordings of spoken word, music and environmental sounds from the British Library Sound Archive, available free online to UK further and higher education institutions. From performances by African poets to sounds of steam engines to an interview with Margaret Thatcher, these recordings provide a rich resource for cross-disciplinary studies.

Theatre Archive Project 
Gain insight into British dramatic history through the Oral History of British Theatre 1945–1968, with over 100 transcripts of interviews with actors, stage managers, theatre goers and more.

British Newspapers 1800-1900
Browse and search through millions of pages of historic British newspapers. New conservation and imaging techniques and a cross-searchable platform offers unparalleled access and discoverability to this valuable archive. The website also includes essays and contextual materials written by expert scholars to help non-specialist users with analysis.

Electronic Theses Online Service
A new resource, that will go live in summer 2008, is the UK electronic thesis service, EThOS. EThOS will enable free access to the full text of electronic theses through a single point of entry, and digitising theses on demand as required by readers.

This collaboration between the British Library and the higher education community will transform access to the more than 14,000 theses produced in the UK each year, representing a rich and vast, but up to now almost invisible and untapped, resource for students and researchers. EThOS will also make UK theses openly available for global use, providing an international showcase for some of the best of
UK research.

Newsletter Issue 14 - April 2008

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© English Subject Centre - ISSN 1479-7089

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