I saw a great demo the other day. The application involved is for the British Library. The British Library has a huge collection with some amazing old books in their “treasure room.” These books are too old, too valuable and to fragile to let just anyone handle them. And yet there are also among the most interesting books for researchers and even for regular people. We’re talking about books like Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks and manuscripts by Shakespeare for example. The Turning the Pages collection has taken some of those books and photographed them and put them into an application that allows the reader to turn the pages online. It’s really a cool use of technology.
There are actually two versions of this application. The older version uses some older time consuming technology both to create and to display the online versions of the books. It’s still pretty cool though and you can find it here.
The latest version requires
Microsoft Silverlight plugin Windows Vista or Windows XP (with the free .Net 3.0 download) but allows you to rotate the books and look at them from more angles as it wore. That version called Turning the Pages 2.0 can be found here.
What I like about this application is that it uses technology to make it possible for more people to get the kind of close access to objects that are generally available only to highly trained specialists. In doing so it brings the art of these old books to more people. I also that it suggests more potential applications that may very well make education more interesting. It’s yet another way that computers and software make the hard to access more accessible for more people.
Note that I recieved a correction in the comments and also a link to aSilverlight page turning application (created by adapting a sample on Silverlight.net) on http://journalist.charette.com/europe1992