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From the Shelf to the Web, Exploring Historical Newspapers in the Digital Age

Newspapers are imperfect recorders of history, yet they are a key asset for historical research. The digitisation of newspapers and their availability online has broadened the scope of historians exponentially. Yet at the same time historians have to be conscious of what lies behind the search results that appear on their screen. The impression of ‘completeness’ can be misleading, as a digitisation project is always determined by particular choices. Digitisation also introduces some hurdles. Searching for articles on a given topic can be hindered by mistakes that have been made when applying optical character recognition (OCR). This lesson is designed to teach how various digital technologies have impacted the way we can access newspapers as historical sources, and which new questions we need to ask.

This lesson from consists of two modules with increasing levels of complexity and time required. The first includes a video that is intended to be accessible to a broad audience. The second offers a series of four assignments that are suitable for either individual or collaborative work for two or three students. The time required varies from 30 to 60 minutes for each assignment.

Learning objectives

After completing this lesson, learners will be able to:-

  • Understand the impact of digital technologies on how historians access newspapers as historical sources and which new questions they need to ask to critically assess them
  • Understand the process of digitisation and optical character recognition
  • Understand how different search interfaces and environments work
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Cite as

Marten Düring and Estelle Bunout (2020). From the Shelf to the Web, Exploring Historical Newspapers in the Digital Age. Version 1.0.0. Edited by Stefania Scagliola. Ranke.2. [Training module].

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Full metadata

From the Shelf to the Web, Exploring Historical Newspapers in the Digital Age
Marten Düring, Estelle Bunout
Social Sciences and Humanities
Content type:
Training module
CCBY 4.0
Digital Source Criticism, Digital Archives