Free ways to view history online

There are few things more magical than seeing relics and artifacts in person: the Rosetta Stone at the Louvre; the Magna Carta at the British Library; or the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives. Seeing history firsthand is an unbeatable experience. But unfortunately, even us most passionate museum goers can't fly to all corners of the world at a moments' notice. Luckily, the internet gives us the world at our fingertips! 

Did you know that you can view many historical documents and artifacts online β€” for free?! Thanks to the tireless work of historians, librarians, archivists and computer scientists, there are a multitude of resources that you can use to peruse priceless collections. This is part of the ever-growing digital humanities field, which uses new and innovative technology to preserve and share history and culture. Here are some resources that you can use to explore global history. (Another tip: Google "online exhibits" for an extensive list of online museum exhibits you can view in museums around the world!)

The British Library

The British Library puts a huge emphasis on digital media. A whole section of their website is dedicated to online exhibits, which are curated by their expert team. Some exhibits include an extensive collection of classic maps, copies of holy books from various faiths, and a really fascinating look at the lives of black Europeans throughout history. One of my favorite exhibits is Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, which you can actually search.

Leonardo da vinci's notebook

Leonardo da vinci's notebook

There is also the "Treasures in Full" feature, in which you can view old documents in their original state, with provided annotation or translation. This collection includes the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare Quartos, among others.

NOVA

It's not just documents you can view online. You can also view notable locations all around the world, such as the ancient Egyptian ruins that are so beloved by the world. PBS' NOVA project provides 360 degree views of these locations, and a map that you can click around. Annotations are provided throughout so you always know what you're viewing and why it was so significant.   

The sphinx in egypt

The sphinx in egypt

Egypt VR

For more Egypt up close and personal, Egyptian company Egypt VR is using new virtual reality technology to the fullest. They have high quality, 360 views of various Egypt locations that you can view directly on Facebook!

The Library of Congress / National Archives

America's Library of Congress is an international gem (quite literally; it's one of the most beautiful libraries in the world). Its website features maps, images, newspapers, and audio files. Listen to the infamous radio broadcast about the Pearl Harbor attack, or audio of famed authors like Ray Bradbury read their own writing. There are few things more special than hearing beloved words straight from the author's mouth. 

Subsequently, the National Archives have all of the notable American documents on display online, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, Abolition of Slavery, Edison's Light Bulb Patent, and the Women's Right to Vote. 

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence

What treasures will you discover online?

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