Indexing Newspapers

I have been working again this morning down at the Local History Collection at the library.  The newspaper clippings’ catalogue is progressing — up to a hundred and thirty clippings so far — and proving to be quite an interesting project.  This morning I got up to the end of 1953, the beginning of ’54, and the Royal Visit (I’m working through a chronological scrapbook of old clippings).  If the selection of news that was considered worthy of preservation is anything to go by (and it probably isn’t), the whole of Fremantle was happy and excited about the Queen’s passage through the city, to the exclusion of everything else.

But there was other stuff happening, such as the seemingly never-ending discussions about the new bus terminal outside the train station, and someone’s idea to amalgamate East Fremantle and the FCC (they even wanted a referrendum).

I was playing a bit with adding notes about the people in these articles to pages on ArchivesWiki. Generally they’re not notable enough for Wikipedia, and I haven’t yet found a good, similar, project that accepts ramdom little snippets about random people. I’ve a slight idea of working on some sort of ‘local history wiki’ for Fremantle, with pages about any and all people, places, buildings, etc. — but I don’t suppose it’ll take off.

It’s frustrating, reading through these newspaper clippings and not being able to put the full text up anywhere (although I have put the East Freo one above on Wikisource), and not assimilating their information into relevant, composite, articles. It just makes it feel more satisfying, if when I find a reference to some doing of Mr. McCombe the Town Clarke, I note it down on his biography. So I think I’ll do more of that.

Further Afield

I think there is a need for a general, world-wide, catalogue of newspaper articles, both historical and modern. Wikisource can’t be it, because it strives for full texts, and all modern newspaper material is under copyright. I envisage something pretty simple, that just catches headlines, summaries, and keywords (and of course source data). It’s not that hard to find libraries that have access to newspaper material, but it’s usually in microform and so utterly unusable if you don’t know what date/page you’re looking for. An index is needed!

The National Library of Australia’s new Australian Newspapers site looks pretty fantastic, and assuming they do end up digatising everything (which I think is the aim), will effectively supplant things like Wikisource so far as public domain material goes. But they’re still stuck when it comes to contemporary newspapers.

But I won’t ramble on about this any more; I’ve got daft blathering about systems development to get on with.


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