Presentation: Exploring Digital Museums, Libraries and Web Archives

As part of my DH2001 Concepts and Collaboration module, I have made a presentation about digital museums, libraries and web archives. The interactive slideshow can is below and can also be accessed at a separate URL here.


Presentation Transcription (slightly altered):

Hello, my name is Jadwiga and I will be presenting to you on the topic of online digital museums, libraries and web archives. First, we will have a look at some examples of digital museums and libraries and see how they work.

A primary example of a digital museum is the Google Cultural Institute. Here, the virtual fourist can view artefacts such as paintings in very high quality, visit places such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa by going on a virtual tour and much more.

The World Digital Library is an amazing learning resource which I only came across recently. It allows you to browse or search over 15, 000 items, such as manuscripts, photographs and paintings and encourages interactive learning through timelines and interactive maps.

Europeana is a website I have been familiar with for quite some time (see my blog post on Europeana and Copyright). It is a portal for Europe’s digital heritage and it claims to provide access to over 500 million digitised artefacts. Europeana works with museums, archives, libraries and other institutions across Europe to make this collection of cultural heritage possible.

Europeana also organises and presents many of its artefacts in online exhibitions pertaining to various aspects of Europe’s cutural heritage, ranging from the First World War to Leonardo da Vinci to European Sport Heritage.

The Biblioteca Digital Hispanica is a digital library of the National Library of Spain. It holds over 150, 000 artefacts incuding manuscripts, drawings, music scores and more and allows the visitor to view objects such as Rembrandt sketches or Spanish-drawn maps from the Age of Explorations.

Next we have the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (see my blog post about the digital humanities in Germany), or the German Digital Library. Like the Bibliotheca Digital Hispanica, it too provides access to thousands of books, archives, photographs, sculptures and more, which can be browsed according to people, exhibitions or institutions.

The online British Library is one of my favourite digital libraries out there. Many of its manuscripts and ancient books have been digitised and are easy to browse and look at. For example, one can compare the British Library’s two copies of the Gutenberg Bible side-by-side, or view ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.

Another example of what the British Library has to offer is virtual books, which the average person would otherwise never access, never mind be able to read. Available virtual books incude a selection from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, a Bible from Ethiopia and Mozart’s musical diary.

On a national level, Ireland also has her digital library, the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI). This is Ireland’s “digital repository for Irish social and cultural data”(Digital Repository of Ireland, no date). It allows the visitor to search for and browse artworks, listen to life histories, read letters and more. Feel free to watch this video about the DRI after the presentation.

Continuing with the DRI, here are some examples of collections housed on the website. There are the archives from the RTE Inspiring Ireland project, with 12 images, 2 audio clips and 8 videos and, from the Seán Mac Giollarnáth collection, nearly 4000 pages from the writings and writer Seán Mac Giollarnáth.

Moving on to web archives, I would first like to explain why it is important to archive web content. The web is a place where people record their lives, thoughts and valuable information which, most often, is not recorded anywhere else. The web then becomes a primary historical source, like a letter or diary; therefore, it should be archived for its cultural and heritage value (Internet Memory Foundation, no date).

The Internet Archive is the largest web crawling organisation and web archive, and its objective is to archive the entire web. Since 1996, it has archived orer 279 billion web pages – an amazing figure. Its archive is fully searchable – just type in a URL into the search box and you can view what any archived website looked like at various moments in time (Internet Archive, 2017).

The Internet Archive doesn’t just archive web pages, but also e-books, text (10 million), videos, films, music, audio, software and images – all easily searchable and browsable.

The Internet Memory Foundation is another web archiving organisation, which activerly supports the preservation of the Internet as a new media for heritage and cultural purpose. It works with other organisations, such as the National Library of Ireland and the UK Parliament, to help them archive websites and create web archives (Internet Memory Foundation, no date).

A good example of a web archive on a national level is the UK web archive, which archives websites relevant to British life. Operating since 2004, its archives are easily searchable, browsable and also contain several collections of archived websites, on topics such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 or the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games (UK Web Archive, no date).

Ireland also has her own web archive: the National Library of Ireland has created a web archive containing websites relevant to Irish life, culture and heritage. Some of its web archive collections include the Remembering 1916, Recording 1916 and Presidential Election 2011 collections.

An important question to ask ourselves would be: why do we digitise? Why not leave all our artefacts in their original form? Digitisation has several advantages: it allows for easy searchable and browsable access, digital formats preserve the appearance of original artefacts in a very accurate manner and digital tools also allow for easy image manipulation (Keefe, 2016).

So we understand why we digitise, but why digitise heritage? I believe that a knowledge of history is necessary in order to build our awareness of our local, regional, national and global identity. An appreciation of the past is invaluable in order for us to grow in our understanding of religious, social, political, economical and cultural development, and thus develop as a society.

The digitisation and archivisation of heritage is thus not only for dynamic access, preservation and easy manipulation. Since we live in an ever-increasing digital and “always-online” world, it is important to augment our society’s appreciation of heritage by placing it in the digital sphere.



Websites mentioned

Biblioteca Digital Hispanica. Available at:

British Library. Available at:

Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek. Available at:

Digital Repository of Ireland. Available at:

Europeana. Available at:

Google Cultural Institute. Available at:

Internet Archive. Available at:

Internet Memory Foundation. Available at:

National Library of Ireland Web Archive. Available at:

UK Web Archive. Available at:

World Digital Library. Available at:



Biblioteca Digital Hispanica, 2016. About digitisation. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, no date. Über uns. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Digital Repository of Ireland, no date. About the DRI. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Digital Repository of Ireland, no date. About the Repository. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

European Commission, 2015. Europeana – A European Digital Library for All. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Internet Archive, 2017. FAQ. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Internet Memory Foundation, no date. Institutions. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Internet Memory Foundation, no date. Web Archiving. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

Keefe, T., 2016. Tim Keefe – DRI Training Series Day UCC: Digitising Your Collection Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

National Library of Ireland, no date. Web Archive. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

World Digital Library, no date. About the World Digital Library. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]

UK Web Archive, no date. About. Available at: [last accessed 14th January 2017]