Best Things in Life

Where to find Natural History archives and other free stuff

A book for the small budget
The web belongs to everyone and offers lots of stuff that’s free. The nonprofit Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages and provides means of access to persons with disabilities. Go to (just register to use the site). Among the holdings are past issues of Natural History from 1924 to 2010. Once you have logged in, type in the search box “Natural History magazine.” The volumes are not listed in chronological order and a few issues are missing, but it’s free. The digital library at the American Museum of Natural History has volumes in order from 1918 to 1966 ( If you want to go further back in time, you can find The American Museum Journal, as Natural History was called until January 1919, at the Biodiversity Heritage Library ( Search for American Museum Journal (omitting “the”). To get the complete list explore both choices, “The American Museum Journal” and “Natural History.”

The first of a planned series of free online books at has just been posted, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants, available as a PDF or an iBook, Rob Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University and a Natural History contributing editor, is one of the two project managers for Your Wild Life. According to Dunn, “This first book used data collected by participants in our School of Ants project (” The oldest and largest collection of free eBooks, or online books, is It was started in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, an “ardent technologist and futurist,” who died in 2011. Supported by donations, volunteers maintain the collection, which boasts almost 43,000 titles. Most are in the public domain and are more interesting from a historical prospective than as a source for current discoveries in science. There is a science category with subcategories by various disciplines at

The site has links to partners and affiliates that also offer free or low-cost books and articles. The main distribution site for Gutenberg eBooks is, a collaboration between the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the Center for the Public Domain. You may find it easier to search ibiblio than Gutenberg for titles and categories that are listed on both sites. At least, its search engine seemed quick to come up with a home recipe for moonshine.

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