Friday, 7 June 2013

Digital Clippings: Chasing Polts and Monsters in dusty old Times

   CFI Blog
One of the key services planned for the CFI is an online archive of Fortean periodicals (including , ufology, cryptozoology, psychical research and so on). Recently, I saw an example of how this could be done.
Inspired by the images of old news clippings posted by Mike Dash and Theo Paixmans in this forum, I'd like to share with you a recent little bonanza. Thanks to a tip from Brian Chapman on the forteana mail list - - these digitised clippings came from a recent and short-lived trial run of the long-anticipated digital archive of the Times, spanning 1785-1985. For a few days in mid-August 2007, the Thompson-Gale host site - see - made the entire 200-year archive freely available for genealogy researchers as part of National Family History Week.
Alas, I only discovered it one day before the free password expired and had only an hour or so to test it for Fortean data. The Times archive is now only available through their regular subscription procedure -  
As anyone who has used the rather eccentric indexes to ancient runs of the Times will know, they were made for a different era, one of gentlemen scholars with lots of time on their hands. They were indexed, usually, on the short headline so you also had to have a talent for coming at your subject obliquely; a ‘frog fall', for example, may have been indexed as ‘A Curious Phenomenon' or an SHC might be ‘Shocking Death in Putney'.
Without any major reference easily to hand I tapped in some general topics and the result was instantly gratifying. A list of entries appears and clicking on any one brought up a fairly good quality image of the story, clipped cleanly out of its old column and nicely referenced. (Actually, a few of them contained several stories jammed together in the came column, so you sometimes have to look for the story in question.)
Here's a list of the items I found in the space of an hour (nb. some of them are new to me and, I suspect, have not seen mention before) [Where relevant my first ref is to the Holt edition of Fort's Complete Books and the second ref is to Mr X's revised edition published by FT at John Brown Publishing]:
I think this provides a useful model for the CFI's proposed newsclipping archive. Take a look at the list of publications that Thompson-Gale have put online -  - and you can imagine what our own extensive list of Fortean periodicals (including , ufology, cryptozoology, psychical research and so on) might look like. Now, if, at the same time the item image is scanned, an OCR version (converting to digital text) is made, you would have a file that was indexable by various means ... but I'm sure we'll have more on that later.

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