Here is a collection of just a few of the most reliable websites on the web that I routinely use. There are thousands more, but this is a good start. All of these websites are in English.
One of the things that you need to be aware of is whether the size of artifacts are in metric or English measurements. If there are no physical descriptions that give measurements, the easiest way to figure this out is to look at the picture of the artifact. If it was photographed with a ruler, count the small marks between the larger marks. If there are ten marks it usually means that the ruler is metric. Very few researchers use rulers with 1/10th of an inch marks.
General Collections which may have some good specialty collections:
http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/index.html The Hermitage Museum in Russia. Contains a lot of things that belonged to the Tzars.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database.aspx The British Museum – The British were inveterate collectors and brought back things from all over the world. Many excellent collections.
http://www.metmuseum.org/home.asp The Metropolitan Museum of Art
http://www.mfa.org/search/collections Museum of Fine Arts Boston
http://22.214.171.124/col/default.cfm Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology – Contains several private collections that were donated to the museum in the era of “elite collectors”.
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ Victoria and Albert Museum in London – Houses one of the premier collections of textile study pieces from all over the world. Browse the galleries to figure out what sort of things they have.
Sources for Portraits and other Paintings:
http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/a/aertsen/index.html Web Gallery of Art A superb collection of all sorts of art; very searchable.
http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/default.htm The Freer and Sackler Galleries – part of the Smithsonian – one of the best sources for Persian miniatures on the web. They are also in the process of digitizing ALL of their other collection items.
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ National Gallery of England – Pictures, portraits and more.
Sources for Manuscripts:
http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk/index.asp The British Library – An amazing collection.
http://manuscripts.cmrs.ucla.edu/index.php Catalog of Digitized Manuscripts – a collection of sites from all over the world that have digitized manuscripts
Museums specific to their countries or locations:
http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ Museum of London – The Focus is on London and its immediate environment from prehistoric times through today. Excellent information.
http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/ – British – Over 817,592 items that belong to the National Heritage Collection all over Great Britain.
http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/arts-literature/the-virtual-museum/ The Virtual Museum – focus mostly on Ireland
http://www.nmni.com/um/Collections/World-Cultures/The-Armada-Collection National Museums of Northern Ireland
http://web.archive.org/web/20070902114354/http://www.frojel.com/_index.html Fröjel Gotlandic Society Archive (Fröjel Harbor, Sweden)
http://romanbaths.co.uk/ The Roman Baths in Bath, England
http://www.detectorist.co.uk/ Metal Detectorist News Site – a British Site focused on Metal Detector Finds. This is now a closed Facebook group.
http://finds.org.uk/ Portable Antiquities Scheme – A British Site with a data base of all of the reported “treasure” finds that were reported under the National Treasure Act. An amazing resource for the British Isles.
And just a bit more…
http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/ The Gutenberg Project – over 46,000 free books that you can download. Be aware that some of these books were written during the Victorian age – be cautious.
http://www.medievalists.net/ Medievalist Net – A collection of articles, many of which are connected to academic articles.
http://www.kornbluthphoto.com/archive-1.html Kornbluth Historical Archive – a private photography studio with some amazing close up pictures of artifacts.
http://www.pasthorizons.com/ Past Horizons Archaeology News Site – they collect news articles on archaeological finds, from all timeframes, into one location.
Next Time: Working with Websites from non-English Speaking Countries