Prior to the advent of the internet, digitization, and other modern technological marvels that we today take for granted, there were only two ways to view very old historical documents in the original: you had to be present at the creation, or you had to make a trek to whatever archive had the documents available, set up an appointment, and view the documents in person at the site. Today, we’re fortunate to have a third option: many documents, of varying historical import, are available for online viewing, and often at no cost.
Should you require an historic document for legal research, always remember to check online to see if something is available in digital format before running off to an archive. You may find yourself happily surprised.
For example, I was doing research on Indian tribal law, and discovered that many early laws and treaties were available online in their original form from the Library of Congress:
Since I am sometimes easily put off the research track, I happened to notice that the good people at the Library of Congress have a significant digital collection of documents relevant to our nation’s history, such as: American Indian Constitutions and Legal Materials; John Adams and the Boston Massacre Trial; the Statutes at Large; and, a collection of documents authored by President Lincoln, just to name a few.
Of course, when viewing them online, you miss the sensation of handling the materials, flipping their pages, smelling their mustiness. Until 3D printers can recreate this experience for you at home, you’ll have to settle for these digital alternatives.