My senior year of college I went on a college study tour to New York City. My professor had "connections" with the currator at the Museum of Natural History and had promised that she could arrange for me to see a less common gown designed by Madeleine Vionnet that was housed there. I had been studying Vionnets techniques, and had tried to copy the drape of this dress using photographs, and was anxious to see how close I had come to the real thing. Allas, my professor forgot about her promise, and my hopes did not materialize. It was unfair, it seemed, that the archives and great works of this world had been shut away from the eyes of the common man. Only the well connected or those with money had hopes of reaching history.
Though perhaps it's not as rare as a Vionnet design, how much would you pay to get your hands on a book about sewing called "The New Dressmaker" published in 1921 by Butterick? Though I wouldn't pay collectors prices, personally, I LOVE it when I can get my hands on one of these gems. Although fashion and patternmaking has taken many a long turn, the art of sewing hasn't changed much through the years. It's worth a look, just for the prose and writting style, if for nothing else.
Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive set out to establish an internet library available to everyone- not just researchers and people with museum connections- of historical collections that exist in digital format. Their moto is "universal access to all knowledge." They have millions of books, movies, and audio free to download. Thank you, Internet Archive. Not even a libary card is required. Take a look: