Digital Collections

The British Library is one of the largest libraries in the world and has a staggering range of materials such as books, periodicals, newspapers, maps, paintings, sheet music, maps, stamps, audio and video recordings to name a few. To explore these further please refer to over 100 collection guides that cover an amazing array of subjects.

Some of the material is in digital form, and the amount is of course continuously expanding, ranging from images to sound recordings both onsite at the British Library and online.

At British Library Labs, we encourage the experimentation and use of Digital Collections and the pages below attempt to describe some of these.

Digital scholarship guides detailing some of the datasets about our collections, for content mining, image analysis and the UK Web Archive are available on the main Library site.

The collections have been categorised below:

Datasets
A comprehensive list of research resources, including catalogues, metadata, archives and records, which can be accessed both online or on site at the British Library, St Pancras.

Images
A vast quantity of digital images have been made available for research purposes online and within the British Library, St Pancras. The collections are truly diverse, encompassing prints, drawings, maps, art works and photographs, as well as illuminated manuscripts, digitised bookbindings and philatelic collections.
For example, visit our Flickr page for over 1,000,000 images taken from scanned books, as well as the wiki set up for potential projects working with these images.

lion-smaller.jpg
Flickr: image from 'Border Lances. A romance of the Northern Marches in the reign of Edward the Third. By the author of “Belt and Spur” [i.e. Emma Louisa Seeley] ... With many illustrations', page 247. Shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 12624.l.23."

Books / Text
A wealth of books and texts can be accessed for research purposes, both online and onsite at the British Library, St Pancras. The diverse collections available for use include Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, Renaissance scriptures, India Office Lists, Privy Council Papers, as well as some 65,000 digitised volumes of 19th century books, including literature, historical and philosophical works.

Music
Explore digitised music manuscripts, scores and songs, available online and onsite at the British Library, St Pancras. The varied collections range from medieval music manuscripts, 16th century music and ballads, Classical composers, Victorian sheet music and songbooks, to modern pop chart hits.

Maps
A range of maps and atlases can be accessed online, as well as onsite at the British Library, St Pancras. We also provide a link to a Georeferencer Data interactive map, an online tool which allows historic maps to be viewed alongside modern-day mapping.
map-lion.jpg
Flickr, Detail of Nicholas Visscher's Leo Belgicus, 1650. Maps C.9.d.1

Sounds
Discover an array of vibrant sound recordings and archives, both online and onsite at the British Library, St Pancras. The collections range from oral commentaries and histories, to linguistic studies, and nature and wildlife sounds.

Multimedia
Visit Broadcast News onsite at the British Library, St Pancras, and access some 25,000 hours of daily television and radio news recordings.

Intellectual property

Like most libraries of our size, our digitised collections are the result of thousands of small and large digitisation projects and thus come with a patchwork of historical copyright and licensing terms which can flummox even the most determined researchers! One key aim of Labs is to understand just how much these issues impact upon innovative research with our collections and to consider our approach to licensing. If you want to use British Library digital collections for your project and are unsure as to the terms of use, please get in touch as soon as possible.

Please ensure you are mindful of the terms of use for each collection when participating in the Labs Competition.

Other digital collections / data to be used with Labs

Please contact British Library Labs with any questions regarding the digital content. If you are aware of digital collections or datasets that could be used together with British Library collections, please let us know and it can be added to this page, or sign up to this wiki and add it to this page yourself.