Wednesday 21 January 2009

Popular history gets textual

At the weekend I posted an article from the Scotsman about some treasures in the Scottish Catholic Archives, and noted how non-historians are increasingly interested in original documents. The recent advent of digitized newspaper archives has transformed much academic research: full-text searches and pdf downloads are now possible from a desktop computer, rather than weeks expended poring over microfilm or crumbling originals. And for the ever-growing army of family historians, it has made life easier too. An unexpected spin-off of this has been that primary materials relating to popular events are now available, often as the freebies, hoping to entice a sale. For example The Times offers reporting from the trial of Oscar Wilde in that same vein; that archive even has its own blog, with a top twenty archive pieces accessed in 2008.