Special Collections

Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture is an excellent decorative-arts-centric, early-American-leaning online resource. They make available a number of classic texts (such as Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament and Edith Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses) as ultra high quality jpegs and also offer a small, focused digital image database representing two of their special collections. Even further, they include a list of online resources that, though there is some duplication, extends the range of our list. Thanks to Karyn in the Library for finding this!

Digital Resources from Libraries, Museums and Archives

Digital Resources from Libraries, Museums and Archives features descriptions of and links to digital media resources developed by IMLS grantees (a few notable examples include “Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project” and “Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books”). Collections range in focus widely, from oral histories of rural farmers to historic costume to rock art, but users can search or browse to access specific collections. Media types and quality also vary from collection to collection (and sometimes within collections) but may include transcriptions, still and moving images, or sound files.

Duke Digital Collections

This page brings together all of the digital media collections made available by Duke University. A few individual collections are Duke-only but otherwise are open to all. The subject matter ranges widely across the visual and literary arts, history, popular culture, and more. Of particular interest are several collections focused on the history of advertising, African American women, and a collection of Vica comics, which were produced by the Nazi-controlled government in German-occupied France as a propaganda tool against the Allied forces. Collections can be keyword searched individually or all together and images are of excellent quality across the different collections.

Harvard University Digital Collections

Harvard University makes a number of its special collections available in digitized form. They range widely by object type and subject matter, and highlights include “Studies in Scarlet: Marriage & Sexuality in the US & UK, 1815-1914” and “Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics”. Collections are only searchable and browsable individually, and the interface, metadata, and image quality vary from collection to collection, but are generally good to excellent.

Oxford University Digital Collections

Oxford University offers a number of its special collections, particularly those from the Bodleian Library, in digital form. Collections are disparate in subject, from Athenian pottery to 18th and 19th century board games and at present are presented in isolation, with no cross-collection browse or search options available. Images vary in quality by collection, some are large and high resolution, others are small and pixilated.

Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library offers more than 250,000 digitized images of photographs, textual documents, illuminated manuscripts, maps, works of art, and books in the Beinecke's collections. Images are browsable by subject specific collections, such “Book of Secrets: Alchemy and the European Imagination, 1500-2000” and “Russian Graphic Art and the Revolution of 1905”, or searchable using keywords or extensive advanced search options. Throughout all collections the metadata and image quality is excellent.

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