Heritage Made Digital

Wax cylinder being held in front of a phonograph.

Heritage Made Digital will transform digital access to the British Library’s renowned collections of rare books, manuscripts, early newspapers, sound recordings and other heritage materials.

Published date:

What will we do?

We will be digitising parts of our collection that have never been made available online before, or are underrepresented in our online collections.

We will also be making most of our existing digitised content available through a new online viewer (with a new website for sound recordings). These will allow users to access material more easily, and where copyright and licensing arrangements allow, to download, share and re-use it.  We will be streamlining the way we work, too, so that we can digitise our collections more quickly and cost-effectively.

Why we're doing this

We first started digitising our collections over 20 years ago, and since then have made some of our most important treasures available digitally so that they can be studied and enjoyed by all.

We've also digitised certain collections that are of importance to researchers, often in partnership with other research organisations or philanthropic donors. We still have some large ‘gaps’ to fill in our digital offering, however.

With Heritage Made Digital we will start to fill these, and to make what’s available online more reflective of the breadth of our collections overall.  We also want to make it easier for people to find and reuse our digitised material.

How we're doing it

We have selected some initial areas of the collection that are not well represented online.  Among the materials to be digitised and made available for the first time are 16th-century historical English documents, early Spanish books and rare manuscripts from Ethiopia.  

We are also focussing on 19th-century newspapers and on rare and unique sound recordings.

We are, in addition, beginning the long process of consolidating our existing digitised content to make it more accessible and reusable, and streamlining our internal processes.