The Darwin Manuscripts Project

We all learn about Charles Darwin and evolution in our ninth grade biology class… But how did Darwin actually come up with these theories? What experiments did he do? Who did he talk to? Well, for an answer, his own notes and manuscripts would be a good place to start.

There’s only one small problem: Darwin’s manuscripts are all out of order. Each piece of paper is a different size. Darwin’s handwriting is unreadable by most people. Darwin uses a bizarre shorthand to take notes which takes months to learn to read. Darwin does not index his notes.

So… what can you do? Well, you can check the Darwin Manuscripts Project Database! The DMP is a group of people behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History, working to turn Darwin’s manuscripts into a database that anyone can use. The DMP takes Darwin’s notes, types them up (including mistakes and things that have been crossed out), includes images and drawings, and then creates tags so people can search across the database.

Here is their webpage: https://www.amnh.org/our-research/darwin-manuscripts-project/

I worked with DMP this summer. Most of their staff and volunteers are college students, young professionals, or museum staff… So, bringing my perspective as a high school student was really fun. It’s a really cool project, super useful for students as well as scholars! Check them out!

[Letter, Charles R. Darwin to John Burdon-Sanderson, March 21, 1
Here Darwin’s handwriting is readable 😂 
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