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Unlocking the Potential of Digital Archives

Last night Jim Mussell posted an excellent review of the British Newspaper Archive on his blog. He makes a number of really important points that I skirted over in my own review. I recommend reading Jim's post in its entirety. However, one of his arguments is particularly worth emphasizing:   This leads me to my second point: the way brightsolid have digitized this material also restricts possible uses. This is a resource for finding articles, not reading newspapers, and this is done by brightsolid’s search engine and database on the user’s behalf. There is no scope here for data mining, for analysis [...]

By |January 10th, 2012|Categories: blog, Digitisation|2 Comments
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The Jokes of Christmas Past

This time last year I was trudging along a slushy pavement with a soggy copy of The Times in my hand. It was only Christmas Eve, but I'd been given an early present - an interview I did with one of the paper's journalists had just been published. These were heady times. A few month's earlier I'd given a paper at Yale University and written a well received article for The Guardian. I was beginning to fancy myself as a bit of a media don. This was more than a touch premature - I  haven't got close to a newspaper, radio show, [...]

By |December 25th, 2011|Categories: blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments
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Smiling Victorians

Two years ago I taught on an undergraduate course which gave 1st year students an introduction to Victorian Britain. In the opening seminar I divided my students into groups and asked them to define a 'typical Victorian'. As I expected, they drew upon every cliche in the book: top hats, bonnets, monocles and waxed mustaches cropped up in every discussion. When I asked them to imagine their character's surroundings, they immediately thought of gloomy workhouses, smoke-filled factories and crumbling Dickensian rookeries. Finally, I asked them to describe their character's personality. All of them imagined the 'typical Victorian' as glum, joyless, or [...]

By |December 19th, 2011|Categories: blog, History|2 Comments
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British Newspaper Archive – changes to the ‘fair usage’ cap.

When the British Newspaper Archive was launched a few weeks back a lot of researchers were frustrated to discover that the 'unlimited' subscription package actually had a 'fair use' cap of 1000 page views per month. When I e-mailed the archive's customer service team about it they informed me that the archive was intended for 'personal use' only and that the cap was non-negotiable. Fortunately, they seem to have had a slight change of heart. The 'fair usage' section of the archive's terms & conditions has now been updated to read: Why do we have a fair usage policy for subscribers? [...]

By |December 12th, 2011|Categories: blog, Digitisation|1 Comment
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BNA security problems – bad link to blame

If you clicked on any of the hotlinks in my review of the British Newspaper Archive you might have been taken to an address with "www1." at the start. If you were also using IE or Firefox this might have resulted in your browser warning you about a security risk. It's a false alarm; a minor glitch that stems from the addition of the "1" after "www". The BNA have assured us that their website is completely secure and that the problem has now been resolved. I've fixed the links in my own review - if you've linked to the archive on [...]

By |December 11th, 2011|Categories: blog, Digitisation|0 Comments
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Hit-term Highlighting: a half-baked solution

In my recent review of The British Newspaper Archive I moaned about the fact that 'hit-term highlighting' was mysteriously absent from its interface. Unlike every other archive on the market, the BNA doesn't highlight your search term on the article image. Here's how it works in other databases: In this example, I performed a keyword search for the term 'Victorian'. One of the articles it returned was this lengthy piece from the Liverpool Mercury. It's 5616 words long. Fortunately, thanks to hit-term highlighting, I can just skip straight to the word shaded in green and read the part of the [...]

By |December 5th, 2011|Categories: blog, Digitisation|0 Comments