07 November 2006

The Boat Race Turns Digital

Since 1829 Cambridge and Oxford Universities have been battling in a boat race. Since 1845 the venue for this 16- 20 minute aquatic sprint, an English rite of Spring, has been the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake. Cambridge has the overall series lead 78-73. Lamentably, Oxford have won four of the last five races.

So what's this about a digital race, and what is the relation to genealogy?

In the Cambridge boat we have the Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. There are over 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images -- Darwin's complete publications and many of his handwritten manuscripts. There is also the largest Darwin bibliography and the largest manuscript catalogue ever published. More than 150 ancillary texts are included, ranging from reference works to reviews, obituaries, descriptions of the Beagle specimens and related works for understanding Darwin's context. Free audio mp3 versions of his works, a machine reading of the text, are also available. If your genealogical interests have morphed into genetic genealogy you may find some background of interest.

The Oxford Digital Library is powering the Oxford boat.

This web site offers central access to digital collections of Oxford libraries and informs you about ODL services, funding activities, digital library technology and developments. Access to the present Beta content is here. I had hopes that there might be something of interest to the genealogist amongst the maps, but unless the focus of your family history is the Oxford area you will likely not get a lift from that section.