The Story

Treasures gives you a glimpse into the incredible archives of the British Library, and contains 100 of the of most important documents in human history: the Magna Carta, for instance, that cornerstone of human liberty, is now available for you to keep in your pocket.

The experience

Each historic document is accompanied by well-written text, a gallery of images and often some video or audio content - for example, if you choose William Blake, you can watch the pages turn on his famous notebook. The app begins by prompting you to download 41MB worth of images to your SD card – the instructions claim that you'll be offered a chance to download movies and audio too, but we couldn't find that option. No matter: we didn't really want to give up 1.2GB of our precious SD card when we can stream the same content over Wi-Fi. There are ancient music manuscripts, religious texts and some incredibly beautiful maps. While this app isn't exactly comprehensives, it's nonetheless awe-inspiring for history geeks - it is, after all, his closest that most people are likely to get to theses documents, and the wonderful images are definitely worth a look - though you'll be hankering after an Android tablet if you fancy getting a really close-up look at them. You'll also find interesting information about the the British Library's exhibitions - the current Evolving English part of the app features Letters from Henry V, the King James Bible and recordings of Yorkshire dialect and Jamaican patois. In an age of shoot-em-ups and location-based social networks, there's something refreshingly high-brow about Treasures - and its incredible to think how a humble mobile app  can transform the way we relate to human history. [Not a valid template]

The Bottom Line

This isn't an app for everyone, but £2.39 strikes us as a small admission price for such a extraordinary, handheld exhibition.

Additional info

version tested: 1.1 (for Android version 2.1 and higher)

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Access to 100 of the world's most treasured historical documents


the good

  • » Highly educational
  • » Well-presented images
  • » Good use of audio and video

the bad

  • » Video can stutter
  • » Requires Wi-Fi or huge capacity
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British Library: Treasures app review

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