Friday, 20 July 2012

The Internet and Philately - Part 3

Using Non-Philatelic Websites to Bring Your Collection to Life

Like most collectors, I have a huge bookmark folder, full of philatelic information sites, auction sites, forums and so on. I also have a bookmark folder that contains non-philatelic websites that I use to add flesh to the bare bones of my collection.

I hope you find some of these useful.

As a collector of British Empire, my favourite site for historical context is The British Empire, Where The Sun Never Sets. The site covers the period from 1497, when Newfoundland was claimed, to 1997 when Hong Kong was handed back to China. It's not an academic site, but a site that brings social context to the Empire.

In a similar vein, the British Pathé site lets you step back into history, with 90,000 historic clips online.

I've watched the Accession of King George V, listened to the King's 1935 Christmas message, and travelled around the Empire during his reign, all from my laptop. This is one of my favourite sites.

Once you've got the history you need, you might find a map useful. The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, hosted by the University of Texas, is a marvellous resource. About 50,000 maps are online, and donations will assist them to get the other 200,000 (!) online in due course. They have also provided a superb variety of links to other map sites, so I recommend this as the place to start.

British Bechuanaland, 1887

Before the advent of regular airmails in the 1920's and 1930's, all international post travelled by sea. I've found a number of excellent websites dedicated to shipping. The best of them is Old Ship Picture Galleries. Run by an enthusiast, it has an amazing list of ships, all illustrated, with numerous different pictures of some. If you have a postcard that states "On Board MV Dunera", you'll find a picture of it on this site.

Not all sites are free of course, especially if you want to delve into a person's background and history. While Google will help you with the more famous/infamous names from history, it's won't help with information on we normal people.

I use two sites to confirm details of senders and addressees. The first site IS free. Family Search is a project of the Latter Day Saints. As with all genealogical resources, it's more effective with more unusual names and addresses. "J Smith, London" will drive you to distraction! However, the US 1940 census is online and free!

The other site I use is, of course, Ancestry. This is a paid site, and I pay A$24.95 per month for what I need. However, a free account will give you access to a lot of data. If you've never tried Ancestry before, I recommend you do. Type in your name and see what happens. Access to the Census data is part of the paid package, but UK censuses are online to 1911 (the one-hundred-year rule is in play here).

The sites I've listed here are enough for me to give historical, geographical, postal history and human context to my collection.

As I said, flesh on the bare bones!


  1. Some excellent sites, a couple of which I was unfamiliar with. Great post.

  2. Glad you like it, and thanks for saying so!

  3. Leicestershire libraries have access to a library edition of Ancestry. com, which members have access to free ( at the library ). Check whether your library has.