Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

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Read the Printed Word!

Not Online: 57 times the Earth’s diameter in archival materials, at the US National Archives and Records Administration

In response to the common question "Why isn’t it all online?", NARA says:

Laid end to end, the sheets of paper in our holdings would circle the Earth over 57 times!

In addition to all of this paper, we have:

  • over 93,000 motion picture films;

  • more than 5.5 million maps, charts, and architectural drawings;

  • more than 207,000 sound and video recordings;

  • more than 18 million aerial photographs;

  • nearly 35 million still pictures and posters;

  • and more than 3.5 billion electronic records.

The volume grows at about 1.4 billion pages per year. Creating copies for our web site, and preserving those copies, simply exceeds our resources at this time.

Indeed, the sheer effort involved in digitization is not one commonly considered by the average user.  While online searching is offered, it is quite likely that a serious researcher would have to visit one of these archives facilities to get their hands on the right documents.

In "Google-eyed pupils keep missing the point, says library chief" (the Times [UK], 14 August 2010, by subscription only), British Library Head of Learning Robert Walshe says the BL has “an unrivalled sound archive of voice and radio recordings and 750 million pages of newspapers, of which only three million are online.”

British Library Newspaper Reading Room at Colindale (London)

These newspapers may be read at the Newspaper Reading Room, Colindale, London.  If you’re nowhere near London, take a look at their Newspaper Copy Services.  Or just look at the online ones (and try not to think about what you’re missing).

Lots of the BL’s sound recordings are online and can be heard here.  To find out what’s not online, here’s their Sound Archive Catalogue.  Feeling flush?  They do a Sound Archive Transcription Service.

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