Marketing Historical Documents: The British Library Celebrates 800 Years of the Magna Carta

Magna Carta, 1215
Magna Carta, 1215. Public domain image from the British Library.

June marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, granted by King John at Runnymede, England on 15 June 1215 in response to demands from his barons.

Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter’, is one of the most famous documents in the world. Originally issued by King John of England (r.1199-1216) as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution. – The British Library

Last week, the British Library published a great set of video animations explaining the origins, evolution, and worldwide impact of the Magna Carta. Narrated by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, these short (less than 4-1/2 minutes each) videos provide a creative, entertaining way of explaining the concepts behind and ramifications of a complex legal document.

The British Library has built out an entire mini website for the Magna Carta celebration and collection, which offers valuable research and educational materials for scholars, teachers, students, history nerds, legal geeks, and Anglophiles. The site provides access to digitized items from the collection, many of which (but not all) are available for reuse under public domain. It highlights major themes and key people surrounding the Magna Carta, includes educational articles and videos, and has developed teaching resources broken down into different age groups (with a UK curriculum focus).

Magna Carta Teaching Resources
K-12 resources for teaching about the Magna Carta. The British Library
Magna Carta, Key People
Learn about the key people behind the Magna Marta. The British Library.

If you live in or near England, or are lucky enough to visit this spring or summer, the library has also curated an exhibit that is open through September 1st.

Those of us who work with libraries, museums, archives, and other types of special collections might not always (or ever!) have the budget and staffing and infrastructure resources that I assume the British Library has, but we can still emulate many of these types of marketing and educational efforts even on a shoestring and mostly volunteer-run budget. I plan to use this blog to start showcasing some of those ideas on a regular basis.

Leave a Comment, Question, or Suggestion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top