Wednesday, June 23, 2010

British Museum Online Archive

Today, after spending all afternoon working on paper props, I realized I need something to help me keep track of great websites and online sources for props that I can access from anywhere. I lose USB drives easily and I don't think a running list on Word is the best way to keep track anyway. Then it hit me- keep a blog. So here's a blog to help me keep track of great sites I come across. Of course, it is for anyone else interested to use as well. Feel free to comment on your experience with the sources I feature, suggest other sites, or just browse.

Today's source is the Online Archive for the British Museum. I discovered it the way you discover all good sources- really randomly through some source link on Wikipedia.
I needed to find Late 19th/ Early 20th century checks for Major Barbara. First off, searching for that on Google, not the best plan. I was about to give up when I decided to take a look on Wikipedia, which made me realize that I should use the British spelling- cheque. I found a little PDF link all about cheques in the references part of the article. The PDF had many different images credited to various sources. Most were from Bank Archives, which led me no where in quick sources because you have to contact the archive and request material. Then I finally looked at the British Museum and stumbled across the fact that they have an amazing online archive.

So here's the deal- you can let the website give you all the stats on how many things are available, but you can search the database with keywords and narrow it down to a certain period and images only. I know, not a big deal- THIS is what makes it awesome. When you find images you like, you can't just save the image, but you can ORDER the image from the archive for FREE. What makes it so awesome, you ask? WELL, after you register saying that you are requesting the images for non-commercial use, you can download up to 100 images per month. The images have to be emailed to you and it claims that you will get them within 2 business days, but they are HIGH QUALITY images, so it's worth the wait if you have the time. I requested 11 images today between 3 & 4 and had them in my inbox by 8.

As far as searching goes, since I only discovered this source today, I haven't done much. It was fantastic for images only, "cheque" dated between 1890 and 1910. I got 63 hits and all but 3 or 4 where actually cheques. I also tried telegrams for the same dates and got nothing. So I guess it just depends on what you are researching. Definitely will be using it more in the future.

One final thing to praise on this site and then I'm calling it a night. Each hit has a great amount of info to go with the image. It's easiest just to show you, so here's a link to one of the cheques I requested today.

I was really excited about this source, I hope others are too. I don't want to break the terms of agreement for the images, so I'll just be holding on to the ones I have and let you request your own. I've acquired a few great source links on my work computer, so hopefully it will be slow enough tomorrow or Friday that I can post a few more links.

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