Research on the Run
As the days grow shorter and colder, I find myself looking for ways to investigate in comfort. You know, look up historical facts while wearing my pajamas and sipping hot cocoa, rather than after driving downtown and hunting down a parking spot. Or visit an eighteenth century frigate at sea, as in my photo.
Thankfully, modern technology is more than happy to ride to my aid. A laptop equipped with wireless can quickly connect me to the Internet and the wonderful variety of websites to be found there.
Tablets, such as the iPad and its Android cousins, offer even more comfortable ways to do research. When something weighs less than a pound and a half, it’s easy to slip it into a purse then pull it out later for some quick dives into history.
My household is graced with four iThings – uh, that’s members of the Apple family that can be used for research. The apps that suck me in the fastest are (in alphabetical order):
Bing: This app has the snazziest interface ever for a search app. I swear I look stuff up, just to play with it. Luscious. Free.
Bodleian: Yes, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is digitizing their treasures in high-def. There’s truly astonishing stuff here, like ancient Roman scrolls and an unfinished manuscript from Jane Austen. There’s also a rich interactive experience, including a timeline, games, explanations from the curators, and the opportunity to suggest the next treasures to be digitized. Free.
British Library: Every 19th century book in its collection is here. Bliss, total bliss – and they keep adding more from other collections! Free.
Dictionary.Com: Free, fun, and quirky. And did I mention free?
Google Search: Hey, it’s Google, what else do I need to say? It’s nowhere near as much fun as Bing, but you need to have it, right? Free.
Oxford English Dictionary: Yes, that’s right, you too can have the entire Oxford English Dictionary on your iPad – fully searchable and in a readable font! I’m in heaven. Dictionaries for other languages are also available. $54.99
The Civil War Today: The History Channels brings you a day-by-day account of the American Civil War, complete with maps, photos, newspapers, and diaries. Plus, there’s a game and amazing factoids to surprise you, just when you thought you knew what to expect. Amazing. $5.99
Virtual History Roma: Gorgeous graphics in three dimensions and tons of facts bring to life Imperial Rome. You can zoom in and rotate objects to find hidden delights. I wish more cities and ages could be explored this way. Free.
What’s your favorite app? Do you have a website you can’t live without?