R & D project

Digitising the history of science in Great Britain

Creating a new major digital collection for teaching and research.


This project was archived on

You can now access the Collections on the History of Science (1830s-1970s) on the Wiley Digital Archive Platform. All Jisc members can sign up for the collection through the Jisc licence subscriptions manager.

2 years and 6 months


Expected outcome:

New service

We collaborated with Wiley and our members to test a new approach for the creation of a new history of science digital collection.

Background to the project

Over the last few years, we've been exploring new collaborative business models to support sustainable digitisation of collections and primary source material. Our collaboration with Wiley on the new history of science collection is part of these efforts and presents an opportunity to test a new approach. 

What we did

We're creating a new one million page digital collection focusing on primary source material and archives on the history of science in Great Britain.

The collection will comprise content from the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), now the British Science Association (BSA), alongside content from UK universities libraries and archives. This content will be digitised free of charge. 

The collaboration is the first to offer universities a chance to influence what material is digitised by a commercial publisher.

The collection will be part of Wiley Digital Archives programme - an initiative to partner with the world’s leading societies, libraries and archives including the New York Academy of Sciences, the Royal Geographical Society, the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Royal College of Physicians to create a programme of digital collections supporting research and education across higher and further education.

Why this matters

The costs of acquiring or digitising content is prohibitive. Members face pressures on time and budgets and there is limited availability of funding sources to draw on.

But there is a desire to see collaboration at scale and a more coordinated and strategic approach to digitisation which can deliver benefits to the sector and enable innovative digital scholarship.

How this benefits you

  • It is an opportunity for UK HE institutions to propose their own collections for digitisation
  • Digitisation is free of charge for members who have their collections accepted for inclusion 
  • Access to the new collection is free in perpetuity for all Jisc core members (UK HE and FE) and affiliates, such as national libraries
  • There are no access or platform charges
  • The content is available “as data” for textual analyses/data mining on request, at no cost
  • It uses the Jisc licensing model licence
  • The collection becomes open and authentication/password-free globally after ten years from publication
  • The collection will support research, teaching and learning

Materials included in this new digital resource feature some of Darwin’s contributions to the science of evolution, notes from English scientist and astronomer Joseph Norman Lockyer on the discovery of the gas helium and the findings of Edward Jenner, an English physician and scientist who pioneered the smallpox vaccine, the world's first ever vaccine. Upon its completion, the digital collection will comprise of one million pages.

Our project partners

  • Wiley logo.
  • British Science Association Logo.