Mining newspapers for poetry October 17, 2014 – Posted in: Books and Technology, Content, Libraries, Special Collections – Tags: ,

poetry in newspaper vermont chronicle

What to do you get when you partner up a digital humanities projects librarian with an associate professor of computer science and engineering?

Answer: Something good.

At the University of Nebraska Elizabeth Lorang, research assistant professor and digital humanities projects librarian in the University Libraries has teamed with Leen-Kiat Soh, associate professor of the computer science and engineering, and a couple of students students to develop software to recognize poetry from digitized newspapers.

“Millions of poems were published in newspapers. Looking at them will shift the way we understand poetry in the United States.” says Lorang.

Similar to text-mining applications, where specific words and phrases are mined from digital sources, the goal of the image processing computer program is to locate specific images or outlines of images. The idea traces back to Lorang’s doctoral dissertation project, when she spent 18 months scouring old newspapers for poems. She was only able to catalog 3,000 poems in that time, but she noticed that the poems were often easily recognizable when looking at the whole page at once.

In steps Leen-Kiat Soh who views this as” a big data problem” and off they go.

Says Lorang:

If we think about the massive digital libraries that we’re creating, the tradition has been to use the text that’s created in those processes to enable us to discover content, but at the same time we’re creating digital images. If we don’t do anything with those digital images, we’re missing a lot of the potential of the digital libraries

On the other side of the pond, Andrew Hobbs and Claire Januszewski from the University of Central Lancashire have been keeping a blog focusing on poetry found in nineteenth -century newspapers. The blog, the local press as poetry publisher, 1800-1900, is centered around the hypothesis that “the national network of local newspapers was the largest publisher of nineteenth-century poetry, and the medium through which most encounters with poetry occurred.”

poetry in newspaper poetry in newspaper sleep

‘Sleep’ [Sonnet XXXIX from Astrophil and Stella] by Philip Sidney
Hampshire Telegraph April 28 1900



poetry in newspaper daphne

‘To Daphne’, Blackburn Standard, 21 Oct 1840

Great stuff.

More on the project:

Project mines 8 million news pages for poetry | University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

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