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Monday, 4 March 2013

Using Digitised Newspapers To Enhance An Understanding Of The Past

At the Royal Commission’s Digital Past conference, Dr Stephen Briggs gave an informative talk entitled ‘Enhancing the Archaeological Record from Digitised Newspapers’. He highlighted the fact that a vast amount of historic newsprint has been digitised during the past decade. Dr Briggs began utilising this resource whilst researching nineteenth-century archaeology and its practitioners. It eventually became apparent that newsprint could yield a great deal of vital information about archaeology and history. This includes contemporary accounts of artefact and site discoveries and even some early excavation accounts otherwise unrecorded elsewhere. Dr Briggs is currently looking for partners to help transcribe and publish some 1400 previously unknown medieval and later coin hoards, and accounts of over 450 mainly unknown Scottish early Bronze Age burials.
Dr Briggs points to an image from 1817, depicting a plan of a Bronze Age burial site at Crichie, Fife.

It was clear from Dr Briggs’s talk that old newspapers contain a great wealth of unique information, and that digitised newsprint is a remarkable neglected resource for archaeological and historical research. Increasing numbers of digitised newspapers are becoming available online from various sources, including the British Newspaper Archive and The National Library of Wales.

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