Friday, 12 June 2009

Henry VIII and the British Library

British Library - respect
I have a growing admiration for what the British Library is achieving in the digital realm. It's partly driven by their strength of purpose around copyright, especially Dame Lynne Brindley trenchant critique of how digital rights management endangers scholarship.

However, they also seem to have grasped the harder truth that to maintain the moral and intellectual high ground it's also necessary to show how digitisation can add to both scholarship, as well as the more generic world of the 'visitor experience'

Turning the Pages
One piece of work which consistently manages to bridge this potential divide is their Turning the Pages programme - an ongoing set of projects which digitise a well known manuscript, and then present it alongside a commentary or a translation.

One of the first works they tackled were the Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. In it they gave people the chance to interpret the real Da Vinci code - i.e. his curious right to left mirror image writing style. If you have never managed to see it, its still on view here.

Henry VIII Psalter [Book of Psalms]
Among their recent new additions to the Turning the Pages project is the Psalter [Book of Psalms] of Henry VIII.

It is a beautiful piece of work, even on screen. However, what makes it extra special is the marginalia by Henry himself. The project explores this - both as an audio track and an transcript.

It's entirely up to the viewer as to whether they switch these on. If you have the Latin, you are more than welcome to figure it out. Being of the same ilk as Peter Cook [#] , I was grateful for the translation.

You can get to it, here, or just click the image above. If you click it you will be taken to the site. It's built using Silverlight so you might have to wait for a plug in to install , or you might just ease your way through. I was okay, even on a big Mac.

Henry VIII - Man and Monarch Exhibition
This project fits inside a cluster of activities which the BL are putting on to celebrate the 500 anniversary of Henry VIII accession to the throne . The big blockbuster exhibition, Henry VIII, Man and Monarch, is on to September and is curated by David Starkey. He is also doing a Channel 4 series.

There is some introductory video on the exhibition on the BL site, here. There is no embed option, which was a disappointment.

The YouTube connection
Naturally I went to YouTube to see if I could see it there. And yes, it is, here. However, the embed option has been disabled 'by request'

I know this is entirely the prerogative of the BL - or perhaps it's the author. Whatever the root of the decision, I can't help but think it 's a bad one. Why put it on YouTube if you are not prepared to share. A bit like going to Glastonbury and refusing to pass the duchy.

The Podcasts
However, leaving that to one side, they do redeem themselves with a whole bunch of great podcasts. You can see the context and a more fulsome description of their contents, here. Or use these shorthand links if you prefer.
David Starkey on Henry VIII: The Change 1509-33
Media files podcast94564.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 23.1 MB)

Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours
Media files podcast94330.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 2.9 MB)

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
Media files podcast94338.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 26.4 MB)

Henry VIII's Psalter
Thu, 21 May 2009 12:30 AM
Media Files podcast94102.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 5.3 MB)

David Starkey: The Young HenSat, 16 May 2009 1:30 AM
Media files podcast93800.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 26.2 MB)

Henry VIII and the Field of Cloth of Gold
Media files podcast93689.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 4.3 MB)

Henry VIII's Music
Media files podcast93288.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 7.0 MB)

Henry VIII's Maps
Sat, 25 Apr 2009 1:50 AM
Media Files podcast93289.mp3 (MPEG Layer 3 Audio, 3.0 MB)
Final Note: British Library
The BL have also just launched a new site Business and Intellectual Property web site, here


The Anne Boleyn Files said...

The online resources for the Henry VIII: Man and Monarch exhibition are fantastic for history lovers and I'm so glad that the British Library have done these podcasts, videos and galleries so that people all over the world can learn nore about Henry VIII and his reign - brilliant!

Rob Ainsley said...

Hi - thanks for covering our interactive stuff, and we're glad you like it.

As to the Henry VIII video on YouTube, we didn't put it up there. It's nothing to do with us, so we can't do much about the lack of embed option!

Our own site is managed by a CMS, which (I think) doesn't allow any option of embedding - I'll try to find out from the technical guys.


Rob Ainsley
BL web team

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if there was an open source toolkit so other libraries could make a turning the page experience with their own content

Paul Reynolds said...

I agree - it would be terrific to have a toolkit in the way you suggest.
I also think these kinds of ideas are the core ingredients to a 'community of museum/gallery/library online practice.
I for one would be really happy to work on trying to bring this about

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