Monday, 1 December 2014

Darwin Correspondence Project

Charles Darwin in 1869
This weekend, I enjoyed searching through Cambridge University's Darwin Correspondence Project. the site offers the full text of more than 7,500 letters to and from Charles Darwin with details of an additional 7,500. The archive covers documents dated up to 1869. You can look at a number of existing projects or create your own by searching for the names of correspondents or by entering a date range or keywords on the advanced search form.

I have always been fascinated by nineteenth century scholarship which was, largely, far more independent than today's scholarship and was thus a time of many great discoveries. Perhaps the main factor in these discoveries was the independence of many of the scholars of that time who were either already wealthy enough to spend the time, or who married into wealth. Another important factor, though, was that such people were driven by their passions far more than the modern university concerns of getting a well paid job.

The style of letter writing is quite different from the style of email inquiries. I still keep a file of letters from before the computer age when you had to wait at least two weeks for a reply. I suppose that in the future, there will be web archives of notable researcher's email messages, but what about tweets? Do researchers actually tweet? More importantly, as the medium is the message, will future archives exist for such things as "Tweets from Simon Cowell"? Perhaps I'll stick with Darwin, Evans, Burton...

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