Bodleian Libraries invite scholars, teachers and the public to explore its digital collections on new online portal, Digital.Bodleian

9 July 2015

Members of the public can now explore the Bodleian Libraries' extraordinary collection of digitized books, manuscripts, maps, art and other materials through a single website.

Image of Digital.Bodleian homepage

The Digital.Bodleian website, launched yesterday, includes more than 100,000 images covering everything from beautifully illustrated manuscripts and centuries-old maps to Victorian board games and Conservative Party election posters from the last 100 years.

For the first time the public can view digital versions of library materials, many of which were only previously accessible by obtaining an Oxford University Bodleian Libraries' readers card. At digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk visitors can view a diverse range of stunning images, find out more about the Bodleian's incredible historic collections, and even curate their own customized image collections Image of Jumbo the children's friend from Bodleian Libraries collectionswithin the website. Digital.Bodleian also allows users to download images for non-commercial use, make private notes and annotations, leave public comments on images and share images on social media. The resource is particularly suited to educational use as all images are available under an open licence allowing for use in presentations, on virtual learning environments and on other non-commercial platforms.

'Digital.Bodleian will bring together the riches of the Bodleian's digitization programme over the last 20 years and will allow people to discover our unique collections through a single, innovative interface,' said Lucie Burgess, Associate Director for Digital Libraries at the Bodleian Libraries. 'It's a dynamic project so the site will continue to grow as we add 1.5 million images from previous digitization projects, and from digital projects going forwards.'

The Digital.Bodleian website is also an exciting resource for scholars. The Bodleian's digitized collections have always been a popular primary resource for academics, however until the launch of Digital.Bodleian these digitized images, books and manuscripts were presented to the public through separate websites, databases and image Image of a caricature of Napoleon I from Bodleian Libraries collectionsgalleries. Now uniting these resources through a single website has radically simplified their access and discovery, providing in essence a digital Bodleian 'one-stop shop.'

While other cultural institutions have led similar projects to digitize and make their collections available online, Digital.Bodleian is unique in the range of collections featured, the easy-to-use interface and the single point of entry that allows cross-collection searching. This is also the first web resource of its kind to follow IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) guidelines; this allows scholars to make side-by-side comparison of images and online delivery of very high-resolution files which allows investigation of fine detail.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian, said 'Digital.Bodleian is one of many initiatives to support the 'digital shift' taking place at the Bodleian Libraries. It should enable further scholarship using our collections but also presents an exciting opportunity for the public to explore and discover our outstanding collections.'

Highlights of the images discoverable through Digital.Bodleian include:

  • The medieval Gough Map, believed to be the earliest map of the UK
  • Botanical watercolours by Austrian illustrator Ferdinand Bauer
  • Complete facsimile of publications from early 19th century expeditions to Egypt by French archaeologist Jean-François Champollion and Italian Egyptologist Ippolito Rosellini
  • Hundreds of board games, writing blanks, and other 18th and 19th century children's games
  • Victorian playbills, handbills, postcards and posters from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera
  • Greek and Hebrew manuscripts digitized as part of the Polonsky Project, a joint initiative between the Bodleian Libraries and the Vatican Library, generously funded by the Polonsky Foundation.

Image of close up of Natural History from the Bodleian Libraries collections

Digital.Bodleian was created using iNQUIRE, digital discovery software developed by Armadillo Systems. Alongside the launch of Digital.Bodleian, Armadillo Systems will be making this software open source in the near future. 

The development of the Digital.Bodleian platform was supported by Jisc, the charity that promotes the use of technology in UK education and research.

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