Through the publishing house Octavo, the Rare Book Room currently has over 400 digitized books available to read online. Many of the books are beautiful examples of the histories of print design, typography, and illustration.
You can search by subject such as literature (where you will find Shakespeare’s work), graphic arts (including a work by Bodoni), music (mostly Beethoven and Mozart), or photography (the Pennsylvania Railroad Photographs from the 1870s are here).
Many of the libraries that hold the original materials are right here in Philadelphia! In the drop-down menu for Find by Library, check out The American Antiquarian Society, The American Philosophical Society, the Ewell Sale Stewart Library of the Academy of Natural Sciences, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Library Company of Philadelphia, the Rosenbach Museum & Library, and the University of Pennsylvania Library.
Please note that you will have to allow pop-ups on your web browser to use the site.
The Getty Research Institute‘s mission “is dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts.” To meet this goal, the Institute has many digital collections, including images of art, architecture, photography, and primary sources such as artists’ letters.
The Institute also has a Photo Study Collection of about a million of its photographs available online. The Collection acts as a reference tool for studying antiquities and Western art.
At the end of this month, GRI will launch the Getty Research Portal, “a free online search platform providing global access to digitized art history texts in the public domain.” These digitized art books will provide easy access to critical scholarship. Stay tuned to learn more!
The New York Times has started a Tumblr to showcase its extensive photo archive. Each week, The Lively Morgue will publish several photographs from the newspaper’s collection. Each photo has the date taken, explanatory caption, and photographer’s name.
Additionally, The Times is posting images of the back-side of the photographs. David Dunlap, journalist for the newspaper, explains that this is where the life of the photograph is recorded. “In many cases,” he writes, “you’ll get to see how often the photo was used, in what context and at what size; the information provided by the photographer; and the information that made it into the published caption.”
Many of the photographs will also be posted on The Lens, The Times’ photography and videography blog. Essays accompany the series of photographs, providing more insight into the people and places depicted in the images.
If you have your own Tumblr account, you’ll be able to repost and like photos posted on The Lively Morgue, creating your own collection of cultural, political, and social history.
Want to explore a history of life from way back when? Retronaut will take you there. British ex-museum curator Chris Wild has been culling images, videos, music, and more from public and private archives.
The website is organized by decade but you can also search by categories (like art, fashion, and music) or clusters (such as steampunk or Through the Lens of…photography). You can also add your own content and leave comments, enhancing the visual collection and adding memories.
Want to learn more about the past? UArts Libraries has a great subject guide for 2oth Century Research by Decade. This will help you find books and articles on just about any event in the 20th century!
Craft in America is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history, techniques, and preservation of American arts and design. The organization is dedicated to educating students of all ages about historical and contemporary craft.
Interested in local history? Search by place for Pennsylvania. Clicking on a record will take you directly to the digital collection in which it is included. Additionally, one of the options for searching is by date. Looking for items relevant to just one decade? Limit your search this way and explore a specific time frame of American history.
To further your historical research, check out the UArts Libraries online subscription databases Daily Life Through History and World History: The Modern Era (if you are off campus, you will have to log in first). These databases also have primary resources as well as scholarly essays.
Paleo Art, from the Smithsonian Institution, highlights beautiful illustrations used to explore and preserve natural specimens from the Paleontological period. This website demonstrates the importance of drawing to the field of paleobiology.
There are three sections to Paleo Art. Historical Art is the collection of illustrations. Working with fossils and other fragile specimens, detailed drawings of the specimens allow scientists and historians to review objects that cannot easily be handled or photographed. Illustrations depict everything from dinosaurs to shrimp. Illustration Care provides an overview of how the Smithsonian preserves and maintains these important documents. Illustration Techniques explains how to become a paleontological illustrator and why illustrations can be more useful to scientists than photographs.
An Invitation to Dance: A History of Social Dance in America is an online exhibition by the American Antiquarian Society. The essays and illustrations provide a terrific overview to the history of social dance, which is an important part of American history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, dancing was a very popular social event. Dances were fun for family and friends, but also provided a place to find romance and network – socially and politically.