Rare coloured prints from Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (1854) now part of the Digital Online project

Victorians given a digital present

For the first time rarely seen nineteenth century images about empire, the Great Exhibition and science are freely available for all to enjoy.

1000s of rare insights into a much loved Victorian period are now accessible courtesy of the University of Exeter.

The JISC funded a nationally important collection of Victorian culture held by the University of Exeter to be photographed and put online. Digital Collections Online features artefacts from the University’s Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, as well as precious manuscripts and ephemera from the rare book and archive collections.

Dr Jessica Gardner, Acting Assistant Director of Library & Research Support at the University of Exeter said, ‘Exeter has outstanding library and museum special collections rich in the subject of Victorian culture. Our students have a unique opportunity to access the originals when they come to Exeter seminars where they enjoy the opportunity to handle and explore many of the original artefacts, and experience the best of the collections through the experience of world-class researchers.’

She added, ‘Thanks to the funding from JISC everyone can now enjoy these treasures online wherever they are, on all our campuses and across the world.  Creating this online facility to view the Victorian collection plays a significant role in University’s commitment to sharing its treasures with the public.’

From the comfort of your own pc, or in the classroom, anyone can now search for 1000s of images of historic popular culture, from Queen Victoria to Alice in Wonderland. All images are free to use for educational purposes.

Dr Richard Noakes, a University of Exeter Historian whose research focuses on the use of science and technology in the Victorian period and who was involved in selection of the Victorian items for the Digital online project said,

"Exeter's Digital Collections Online gives access to an extraordinarily rich and visually stunning collection of historical source materials that cannot be found anywhere else on the web. Students and staff wanting to explore the diverse ways in which nineteenth century Britons represented their domestic, imperial, natural and magical worlds will find a plethora of things here that will illuminate, fascinate and surprise. With new material being added every week, this is a collection that all scholars will want to explore time and time again to revise their historical understandings."

A digital display of magic lantern slides and images from the Victorian culture collections photographs during the project are now on show to the public in the Research Commons in the Old Library Building. The newly refurbished Research Commons is where the University has invested over £2 million to create a world-class space for quiet study and the long-term growth of its library collections.

Digital Collections Online and the Research Commons will be launched on 16th March with a workshop about the ‘Digital Futures of Special Collections’ featuring speakers from the University of Exeter, Birmingham and Nottingham and a drinks reception hosted by Exeter’s Registrar and Deputy Chief Executive, David Allen.

Ben Showers, programme manager at JISC, said, "Opening up this internationally important collection from the University of Exeter and making it freely available to teachers, students and researchers across the world is of great importance. They will be able to use these images and objects to help forge new areas of research and learning and help enrich the teaching experience for students."

Date: 16 March 2010

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