Digital Archives

Online history archives are websites that store historical primary resources electronically that can be accessed by the internet. They offer historical data to academics as well as regular people who are doing personal research. They allow easy access to lots of information, people can access information from all over the world, whenever they need it. This is excellent for scholars who would otherwise have to travel to the location of the archives, which is not only time consuming, expensive, but also damages the environment. It also encourages regular people to research as the information is so readily available. If the information is easy to access then people will be more encouraged to do research than if they had to travel to get any information. There are many different sites, which can focus on specific information, The Darwin Correspondence Project focuses on Charles Darwin. Other sites have more broad information such as focuses on familial ties or Medici Archive Project which focuses on the humanities.


Limitations are that sites only have certain types of information based on the topic the archive focuses on. Another draw back is that some for profit, such as require a fee in order to be accessed. While there is plenty of information that has been uploaded, there is still plenty of information that has not been uploaded online. This is due to the fact that not everyone wants to allow public access to their work. A lot of work has to go into uploading the information, and storing it.

All in all, I think they will be great resources, however this is only the beginning so a lot more work has to go into understanding how to better use them. Once they are fully understood they will be a great resource to everyone, scholar or not.



Analyzing Historical Archives

Historical archives are a necessary and valuable source for anyone doing research in historical topics. As such the creation of digital archives has in recent years become a valuable source to historians allowing them to access what would have been difficult to find primary documents. Many documents are well preserved through online databases as the information on the primary sources can be accessed without damaging the physical object. There are various types of historical archives and numerous ways to display the resources they hold. The following websites are examples of a few of the different ways in which digital information can be portrayed and the pros and cons of these forms of curation. is a website designed for the general person to find very specific information for price. is a historical archive that digitizes records for people to sort through and find. The website is not well designed for anyone who is looking for more than one specific record about a relative. For historical research the process of finding multiple records of people from the past is rather difficult as the records are categorized by specific names. This website however is good for general records as it does not focus on the life of one person or group but rather many people from all over. For the average person looking for a relative or for a researcher looking for the history of a specific family group, it would be helpful in finding primary sources through the transcribed census records and does offer valuable information on the demographics, careers, and languages of the people of the past. Having used this website for historical research in a previous course, I have noticed that the transcription of census records by is not always accurate and therefore could result in misinformation. Overall this is a very useful source for both historians and the average person but it difficult for many to access and use due to a poor layout for searching and charging for use.

The Darwin Correspondence is a useful and well laid out historical archive that is free access to anyone with an Internet connection. This resource gives historical context to the primary sources that they have available and clearly categorizes their information so it is easy to search thematically and by person rather than sorting through letters individually. The Darwin correspondence uses a good mix between text and media in order to capture the user’s attention to specific resources but maintains a profession look for the website overall as it stays informative amongst the many images present. This resource is for a very specific topic of research and as such would be useful for primary and supporting documentation for arguments but would require anyone doing historical research to find more contextual information to back up the information in the primary sources.

The Medici Archive Project is a very informative source that covers a specific topic, the Medici family over a long period of time. This website is free to access and as such makes it available to anyone who may need to use these primary documents for historical research. The website offers background information on several of the documents and is arranged easily to sort through the archive. But this website is laid out in a way that the abundance of images makes the historical information being used seem small in comparison and may draw the users attention away from relevant information with the distracting overuse of media. The sources are well archived and organized but their presentation needs to include more text so that users can have an easier time finding what they are looking for. As well this website does appear to still be updating itself, they offer a variety of further learning opportunities in their courses section and even include metadata on the archives as to how the project was compiled which increases their legitimacy as a source.

As demonstrated above there are a variety of methods for curating historical resources through online databases all with their pros and cons. It is important for the historian to keep in mind the ways the information they are accessing is curated in their research as the forms of organization can have a large effect on the outcome of their research.


           Online archives are very useful for historians, students, or people that simply take an interest in their content. In class we looked at three different archives that each serve different purposes. They are all very useful however also very limited in their own ways. Archives often hold a plethora of information, as those in the syllabus clearly do, however each archive is very different. These are, The Darwin Correspondence Project, and the Medici Archive Project.

 is probably the most common one on this list that many people know about as it has television commercials informing its population of the uses. This archive has history of births, deaths, marriages, major events, etc., that people can subscribe to. The idea of the site is to pay a monthly fee and add as much personal information about yourself and your family, and the archive will pull “clues” as to your history. This is more of a personal search engine, assisting in finding personal family history. There could be a way that it is useful for historians if they decided to use the website or add to its information pool. The limitations of this, however are that it is costly. There is a monthly fee for personal familial information as well as the fact that we do not know where it is coming from. It pulls from a historical collection that is also prevalent on the website, which can be added to by others as well as new information surfaces. Overall, I don’t think this is a very good archive. Having to pay a monthly fee for your own family’s information seems unfair, however it is out of convenience as there is not much searching to do.

          The Darwin Correspondence project is probably my personal favourite out of the three. This is an archive where people are using the letters and works of Darwin to publish his information and make sense of some of the work he did. This is very useful for historians that are looking to study Darwin in any way, as it provides a fair share of information itself as well as other sources to find more information. It is run by a group of professors and doctors in their field who took an interest in Darwin’s letters, and therefore this can be a reliable source of information. It is very useful to historians in this way, as they can examine the works of their colleague’s specialized fields. There are some things that are missing and the publishers even ask for help in finding them, which would be the only downfall to the site other than its being completely related to Darwin. There isn’t any other information than his which is understandable in a Darwin-related archive.

          The final archive is the Medici Archive project. This is designed to explore the humanities and is a formal archive of such. There is not much to be done except finding out what is it as it is a locked database that requires a login for entry, however it does state that it features over 4 million letters on political, diplomatic, gastronomic, economic, artistic, scientific, military and medical culture. This would be very useful for historians studying in the field as it is a massive collection of primary sources. Unlike the Darwin Correspondence Project, it gives a greater allowance to analyze these primary sources and do one’s own research rather than reading about that done by other historians. This could be a limitation however for someone looking for some sort of analysis.

          Overall these archives have a plethora of historical data that can be useful in different situations. They are all vastly different however similar and very useful in their own individual ways. They help show what digitizing history can do for those in the field of study as well as people that have a desire to learn about history. This can be said whether it is their own history or they want to study someone else’s work. Archives are a very useful tool.

HIST 2P26: Assignment #2 Historical Websites

Historical websites offer a new and interactive way to experience and research history. Three such tools are interesting examples. is a website which links readers to a vast database (over 4 million items) that covers documents kept by the Medici family covering everyday life in Florence from the 16th to the 18th century. is a genealogical website which provides access to personal and private data, immigration records, war records, census records and many other items that can assist individuals trying to establish their ancestry and genealogy. is a website linking to a database containing more than 8,000 letters written by or to Charles Darwin.

The Darwin Project is a British website managed by the University of Cambridge. Charles Darwin wrote and received letters over his lifetime in order to study and obtain information for his scientific observations, so access to these letters provides a view into Darwin’s scientific study, and also his personal world. The website offers users the ability to search the database, and also provides scholarly blogs based on academic research. There are materials directed at high school students, post-graduate students and professional historians. The authors of this website have recognized that many users will not have the knowledge or ability to search the database and make it easy to navigate, while offering some pre-packaged information about Darwin’s life and body of work. However, this website does not encompass all of Darwin’s correspondence yet, and meaningful research does require historical background and knowledge. can be a useful website, containing much basic North American information. It is directed at amateur genealogical researchers in an individual way, and encourages users to post their findings in a structured family tree. It offers a free trial period, but then requires a monthly fee to continue a subscription. This is frustrating because much of the information that the site contains can be found, free of charge, elsewhere. An example of this is Canadian Expeditionary Forces service records, which are available on government websites. Another drawback to this site is that genealogical information posted by individuals can be based on hearsay or recollection, without any substantiation. This can result in inaccuracies being passed on and there is no way to dispute it. Marketing of the site, and of site products such as DNA testing, can be overbearing once one has paid the monthly fee.

The Medici Project is the most ambitious website of the three, for several reasons. The Medici kept documents on just about everything connected with everyday life, so the data being used is immense. The website describes its mission as serving as an online research institute, so it targets the scholarly community. The material it houses needs to be translated from Italian to English, and while some of that is done for the user it does require background historical knowledge to appreciate this site. It is not as clearly laid out as the Darwin Project website, but offers more scholarly articles, descriptions of academic projects underway, and online courses for those interested. Providing access to an important online research institute, free of charge, almost makes the one criticism seem minuscule, but given the subject matter the website could look prettier.

Moreover, compared with the Darwin Project website, it is more difficult to navigate. It requires a lot of mouse clicks to get where you want to go, as a colleague of mine pointed out, and these days scrolling is more popular and easier. The Darwin Project allows scrolling more freely. ( is out of this discussion, because they charge to navigate further than the first page). The Darwin Project makes one feel that all of the information on the site is freely available, along with scholarly analysis and packaged information. The Medici website made one feel that the scholarly institute owned all the data and was only going to allow glimpses at its own pleasure. This raises the question, who should own historical data, and what responsibility do they have for making it accessible to the public?


Blog Post #2. Archives

When looking at the archives listed, it is clear that there are a wide variety of archival sites which, while serving the overall same purpose, go about sorting and displaying their archived information in very different ways. With the exception of one site,, all of these archival websites are free to use and open to the general public. While some of the archives are catered toward historical researchers who have an expert knowledge in a specific field, there are others who through the use of visuals, easy to navigate database systems, and easily presentable online exhibits, work to present their information to the general public or those with little to no prior historical research experience.

As mentioned earlier, is a pay to use site that is intended to allow the user to trace their family tree and discover relatives who they otherwise would have never known about. For the low low price of $14.99, users gain access to a variety of research tools and access to names, birth dates, and family histories through the Mormon Genealogy Archive. Rather than providing the user with a large quantity of information to sift through, works more in the sense of an aggregator site which provides the tools to sift through large amounts of information but that information is far more broad and difficult to find than in other sites.

medici archive

The Medici archive project chronicles more than 4 million letters written over the span of 200 years from 1537 to 1743. My first impression of the site was that it was unorganized and that the cluster of pictures all crammed together on the main page was messy and confusing. This opinion of the website changed after going through the different sections of the site and using its search engine to look up more specific information and letters of a specific topic. I began to find that was very easy to navigate and was good at displaying their information on the individual pages, unlike the messy looking homepage.

darwin computer

The Darwin Project organizes and sorts 8,500 letters written by Charles Darwin and more than 15,000 letters total. I found that this was by far the easiest site to navigate and it was easily my favourite one to use. The pages are not clustered in the way that they were with the Medici site and the use of visuals provided and overall stimulating experience which is accessible not only to professional researchers studying Darwin, but also to amature historians, teachers, and students.

Between these three sites I would have to say that The Darwin Project is the most well organized, well thought out, and easily accessible in the group. The Medici project, while useful and informative could use some work in the organization and display of their information. comes in last for me due to its expensive subscription fees, unclear information as to what you are specifically getting with these payments, and overall broadness of information.

Blog #2: Digital History Archives

Looking at the Ancestry archive, the site offers little to no information to users who aren’t ready to pay for an online-subscription. This site offers a one stop shop for their information to its users for a monthly fee of $14.99. However, the information is typically very broad and general. This means the researcher must initially have a few detail specific facts related to their topic prior to using the archive and even then it can still provide useless information. The fact that anyone who wants use this archive, whether it’s just someone trying to develop their family tree or a great historian, having to pay for information that is most likely unhelpful and unrelated is a huge limitation.

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Shifting our attention towards the Darwin Correspondence Project archive, right from the top the site is FREE for everyone to use. And by everyone they mean everyone, as it has worldwide access to those with an internet connection. The site provides it’s users with copious amounts of information, although that information is only pertaining to Charles Darwin. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to historians and those who want to further their knowledge of Darwin. Additionally, this site is easy to navigate as it has a general flow to its layout, allowing you to look deeper into a topic while not straying too far from the home page.

Similarly to the Medici archive, the site was also free and provides its users with loads of historical information. Although, the information is only useable to historians who already have a decent understanding of the Medici family or Italian history. Additionally, the site would be far easier for a historian to explore as opposed to a regular student who isn’t sure what they are looking for exactly as its layout is quite distracting and leaves the user not knowing where to begin.

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Having said the various flaws incorporated with digital archives, it is important to remember that they do typically provide a researcher with a large amount of information compiled into one source. It’s up to the researcher to be informed and choosey when searching for historical information.



Blog Post #2

Online archiving is a relatively new way of storing information that has revolutionized the way we store and keep information. These online archives are much easier to access than normal archives as you can access them as long as you have an internet connection. Many of these, such as the Darwin Correspondence project and the Medici archives are free to the public. But sites such as ancestry are online archives that you have to pay for in order to access.

The first online archive we used in class was the Darwin Correspondence project. This archive was constructed by the University of Cambridge which is an archive of Charles Darwin’s research along with documentation of his personal life. This site is very easy to navigate and you can find so many of the letters he wrote and received in his life.

charles darwin

Another one of the sites we visited was the Medici Archive Projects which covers across Europe and contains many sources from the 16th century forward. The site is not organized as nicely as the other websites as it’s a lot of text and not as many visuals and the page layout isn’t as appealing as the other online archives we looked at as it extremely cluttered and not very straightforward.

The final online archive we looked at was which is the only one we looked at that required payment to get the experience of the website. The cost of membership with ancestry varied from around $20-$30 a month to find out about your family tree which wasn’t even necessarily correct information about your family’s past. They also had a DNA test service for $130 which tracks down your genetic origins. I personally think this archive is a complete rip off and not worth the cost to find out the information ancestry has about your background.

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Overall, I think that online archiving is the way of the future and are a much safer alternative to preserving history than traditional archives are.

Blog Post #2 – Digital Archives

Digital archives are definitely a controversial, modern idea of historical information. A digital archive is something that most people would see as something super easy to access, all the history is right there online! However, it’s not always like that. We don’t always know where the information is coming from, and even if we do, how to we know it’s liable information? There were quite a few archives we looked at in class this week such as Darwin, Ancestry, and Medici.

To begin with Ancestry, there is not much this site does for us. This site is advertised to be a “super easy way to find out who your ancestors are!” No. This site does next to nothing for historians and really, people as a whole. Ancestry is the type of digital archive that comes from mormons and is looking to make money. Essentially, they play commercials to make you think that if you sign up, you’re going to find out you’re related to someone amazing or famous which almost never happens. However, in my case, I am related to Benjamin Franklin! Anyways, there are numerous limitations to the cite of ancestry and one of the biggest ones for historians is how little it provides to us. There is nothing that can be used off of this site if you’re not willing to pay a minimum of $14.99 a month to see it.


It’s almost the same thing with the Medici site. While this site was free to access and could provide a lot of information, the information had to be going to the right person. For a historian looking into Italy or art from Italy and the Medici family, this site might be right for you. However, for a second year history student or someone just stumbling across the web, this site is a mess. It looks like a social media site and if you don’t know what you’re looking for or have some sort of sense what you want to find, this site is just going to confuse you which is a huge limitation of the site!


Finally, Darwin’s correspondence. I really enjoyed this site simply because of the way everything flowed. If you clicked on a specific person, you could just keep looking through the site and end up somewhere completely different from where you started, or right back at the beginning. This site was also completely free to access and had loads of information. While I’m not someone entirely into science and all of that, I love evolution and so looking at this site helped me understand otherwise. There is also a search bar so that you could type in almost anything and see where it takes you in all of his letters. This site was overall amazing and was so fun to look at with little limitations. giphy-downsized-3.gif

While I know it seems like I was kind of just rating the digital archives we looked at, it’s what it almost comes down to. A historian can’t just look at any digital archive and know what they’re doing or find exactly what they’re looking for. Everyone has their preferences about wha they like and don’t like looking at, and a benefit of digital archives is that we as historians have the opportunity to search through millions of sites and blogs and more to find what we’re looking for. While some digital archives may not be for everyone, there’s always something you find that you end up loving. is not one of those archives in my books.

Blogpost #2: Digital Archives

Digital History is a difficult subject to discuss. It is fairly interesting, what is also interesting and quite surpasses Digital History is the aspect of digital archives. Digital archives, while amazing resources, still have limitations. The archives have improved the speed at which historians are able to obtain data. In addition to this, they have broadened the availability of these documents to people all over the world who may not have had the opportunity to view them previously. One particular online archive is the archive of the Darwin Correspondence Project. This archive has the ability for worldwide access, as long as the researcher has an internet connection, it is assembled of letters that were written by Darwin until the year 1872, and it was assembled by the University of Cambridge.

What makes this digital archive challenging however is the fact that one only has access to information about Darwin. Some of the best research has happened by accident and this database is forcing the researcher to stay within the realm of Darwin. While there is a plethora of knowledge on this digital archive, it is surrounding Darwin. If one was looking for another topic, this database may not be right for them but it is always a good place to start. This archive also highly provides information of high value for historians. Being that it is on one topic, it makes it difficult to stray from this topic if one was doing research primarily on Darwin.

The site of Ancestry is vastly different in the sense that it based off of subscription whereas other sites are not. Ancestry does contain the contents of these other sites and just puts them all together in one area. I would much rather do my own research and form my own opinion. Above all, if not to have the satisfaction of doing the research alone, I am cheap when it comes to subscriptions and I have the means to do the research alone anyways.

Both of these digital archives have a plethora of knowledge to share, it just simply depends on what the researcher is looking for. Digital Archives are an amazing resource for today’s historians, because they take a lot of the physical work out of doing research and it is exciting to think of what is yet to come.


Second Blog Post: Archives

Online archives are a great way of storing information, this is because they are good for curation, maintenance, space, resources, and preservation. They are used in today’s society for many different ways of accessing information about a certain topic or person and they make it easy to locate research. An example of online archives would be the Darwin Correspondence project and Medici archives. These sites allow anyone to access a numerous number of documents from the past for free. The Darwin Correspondence was built by the University of Cambridge and it consists of many letters written by and given to Charles Darwin. This archive is fascinating because it possesses personal information about Darwin and also has access to the research done by and on him.

Not all archives are free, an example is one that is used to personally track down past research and information in an individual’s life. This website is known as and it is an online archive that stores information about people’s pasts and ancestors. This allows people to get a sense of belonging and makes them feel as if they are learning and becoming a part of their heritage. Even though the website is used by many people, in my opinion, it is a waste of money and should be free. This archive charges up to thirty dollars a month for its services and is known for giving false information of people’s pasts. It is an unreliable source that tries to persuade people in paying for information that may not even belong to them.

Another example of an archive that is older is the Medici Archive Project. This archive holds information on Tuscany and Europe and contains millions of letters from the years 1537-1743. It may be a bit trickier to navigate to different sources on this site because it contains so much information. However, it is still very interesting as to how thousands of past documents can be stored in one area without the worry of destruction and being damaged or lost.

Overall archives are a very useful tool when it comes to organizing documents especially ones from the past. They are very handy to historians who have to research thousands of documents about a certain topic. They give them access to information from any time and place at just the click of a button.