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Google shows off scanned-in Gettysburg Address drafts

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Google has decided to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by "showcasing" digital copies of all five versions of Abraham Lincoln's iconic speech.

The company said that the Google Cultural Institute exhibit showcases not only the address itself, but the history leading up to and after Lincoln delivered the address on 19 November, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Considered one of the most important speeches in US history, the Gettysburg Address was delivered by Lincoln to mark the opening of a cemetery dedicated to soldiers who were killed in the pivotal battle of the US Civil War.

While the speech – best known for its introductory line "four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" – has become a fixture in US classrooms, its actual text and details remain somewhat disputed.

For example, at least one version omits the phrase "under God".

Because of the popularity of the speech, Lincoln was asked on multiple occasions to provide hand-written copies of the speech, resulting in the circulation of five different original copies of the address each written by the President himself prior to his 1865 assassination which now reside in various museums and university collections.

Google has produced the digital exhibit to showcase the various copies of the address and explain the subtle differences between each.

"Most of us will never stand in the Lincoln Bedroom and see the handwritten draft exhibited there," wrote Google partner development manager Amrit Dhir.

"But now anyone with access to an internet connection can explore all these artefacts from this defining moment in history — perhaps a bit more accurately than when I gazed at that map."

Google could soon find itself presenting more exhibits of more recent* historical events and documents as the company has scored a major victory for its digitisation efforts. A US court recently decided in favour of the company and allowed the Google Books project to go forward in its plans to provide digital excerpts from thousands of works. ®

* The 150-year-old Gettysburg address is considered to be a public domain work

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