As part of the Oceanic Exchanges ‘Ontologies’ work package, Dr M. H. Beals and Dr Emily Bell led a six-nation project exploring the histories, structures and future of digitised newspaper collections around the world.

Over the past 30 years, millions of pages of historical newspapers have been digitised, creating a valuable resource for people worldwide. However, these nation-based programmes cannot offer a complete representation of their cultural history as they often mask the fact that a globalised news system emerged more than 200 years ago.

The team of nearly 40 international researchers pooled their wealth of knowledge, linguistic range, and long-standing relationships with local heritage sectors to address this issue.

Their work explains how to digitally rebuild the nineteenth-century global news network to better reflect its international and multicultural nature. More significantly, it maps collections, guiding the linking of independent databases in a holistic, system-driven manner.

Subsequent funding has supported wider dissemination, helping to improve the choice and availability of historical newspapers worldwide.

The project’s key outcome, The Atlas of Digitised Newspapers and Metadata – a unique Open Access guide to newspaper databases around the world – demonstrates the potential of international, multidisciplinary work in the humanities.

With readers in more than 60 countries, it is already becoming a recommended reference for potential users of online collections and is supported by ongoing workshops and webinars in the project’s partner countries.

Researchers from the following institutions took part in this six-nation collaboration:

  • North Carolina State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Turun Yliopisto
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Universität Stuttgart
  • Universiteit Utrecht
  • University College London
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In addition to the work of these university researchers, our partners at the British Library, the Library of Congress, the National Library of the Netherlands, Europeana, Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de México, the National Library of New Zealand, the National Library of Finland, Gale: A Cengage Company, the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Berlin generously provided their time in interviews, and made our work possible by sending us metadata samples and documentation, and answering questions about these documents to fill in the gaps. Our national teams compiled histories of the various collections together with archivists and staff at these institutions, mapping the connections between collections and providing language variants for the glossary. We brought this work together in creating the Atlas, with additional visualisations of the metadata currently being prepared by the Universität Stuttgart team.

The Loughborough University CALIBRE Awards for Summer 2020 recognise international research collaboration. Voting is open to all and will close 12 July 2020.

Vote here for Oceanic Exchanges Ontologies