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Wendy Boswell

Online archives take you back in history

By February 19, 2014

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One of the most interesting aspects of the Web as a whole, at least for me, are online archives: digital repositories of history that are there for us to visit and remember. Here are five online archives that I've been looking at lately that I think are worth your time.

life archive

The LIFE Photo Archive is one that you can get lost in for hours. Browse through covers all the way back to the beginning, individual photos, and event features, such as LIFE Covers Civil Rights.

book cover archive

The Book Cover Archive is precisely what it sounds like. Browse through the gorgeously designed covers here page by page; you can also limit your search with a dropdown menu to search by publisher, artist, author, title, etc.

old bailey archive

If you've ever wanted to learn more about the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, then the Old Bailey Online Archives are just the ticket. You can search 197,745 criminal trials dating back to 1674.


Gmane is a mailing list archive. You can use Gmane to search any public mailing list that is subscribed to Gmane (over 10k at the time of this writing).


Don't like the newest version of (insert name here) software? No problem. You can use OldVersion.com, an online archive for older software versions, to find the one that you're most comfortable with.

This is just a brief sampling of the fantastic archival materials that are freely available on the Web for our use. For even more archives, check out Archives on the Web, good, basic list of online archives, with everything from the National Archives to Papyrus Archives (ancient Egyptian hieroglypics!) to Simpsons Archives.

In addition, if you want to search for a specific archive using a search engine (I'm using Google as the default, but you can use these in most other search engines), try this simple search query:

"topic I'm searching for" + archive"

This will get you started. To narrow it down even further, add a domain restriction on that query:

site:.edu "topic I'm searching for" + archive"

You can also search .gov or .org domains for archive possibilities. Last but not least, this little trick seems to be the one that returns the most positive results:

inurl:archive "topic I'm searching for"

This returns results ONLY with the word "archive" in the URL that have information on what you're searching for.

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