The barbecue grills have been rolled out across North America and summer is unofficially here. Those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are not as carefree for some as they used to be, but if you find yourself with more time here and there, check out these new online features from two of our big repositories of Western civilization.
First up, the website of the British Library recently added a Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians section. This electronic collection has more than 1,200 literary goodies, mostly from the 19th century, accompanied by essays from experts and 25 documentary videos.
Items include some digitized manuscripts of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Austen, Dickens and Wilde, plus the childhood writings of the Brontë sisters. Other historical tidbits can be found as well, like exceprts from a slang dictionary dating back to 1809 (shown below). And remember, since many of these works are in the public domain, you can get free ebook copies of many classic 19th century works from places like Project Gutenberg or the Free section of your preferred online bookstore for some really old-school summer reading.
Visual stimulation more your thing? The Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York City just announced a few weeks ago that it was making more than 400,000 of its high-resolution digital images of public domain works free for download. The files, including some very famous works of art, are available for non-commercial use — including in scholarly publications in any media — without the need for permission from (and money to) the Museum.
It’s all part of the new Open Access for Scholarly Content initiative. To download a file, click its thumbnail from the Met’s Online Collection page and look for the little OASC tag and download arrow underneath it; not every work is in the public domain and available. In addition to providing impromptu art-history lessons and high-rez images for your various personal projects, the images also make really classy desktop wallpaper when you need to take a break from your X-Men collection.