Would you like to be part of a local history project?
PUBLISHED: 15:21 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:23 05 December 2018
“History from the bottom up” - this is how an archive editor at Archant has described the company’s project to digitise 150 years of its stories.
Last week, the company launched the project, known as Local Recall, after receiving a grant of almost £600,000 from Google.
Ben Craske, the archive editor, and Chris Amos, the project’s manager, were at the Forum in Norwich on Tuesday (December 4) hoping to raise awareness about the project and attract more volunteers.
More than 100 articles are being submitted by volunteers everyday and the showcase at the Forum was part of a month of weekly events to raise awareness about the project.
Local Recall will see print archives dating back to 1870 turned into digital records which can then be searched online with voice commands.
Material from the archives is being digitised, with volunteers helping to manually check the scanned files.
Artificial intelligence specialists ubisend, based in Norwich, will then work with Archant to create a voice-activated search service.
Mr Craske said this meant readers would be able to search the archive by asking questions, such as: “When was the last time the Queen visited Sandringham?” or “Read me a story from Christmas Day in 1982.”
The project is concentrating first on the most interesting years, for example the 1953 floods and the world wars, before moving onto other decades, and aims to have scanned 300,000 pages by the end of next year.
Mr Craske said the project, the first of its kind, was at the “cutting edge of what’s being done with voice-recognition and chatbot technology”.
He added: “People are quite disillusioned with some of the bigger picture stuff in the national press,” Mr Craske said, adding that they wanted to turn to the familiar and to nostalgia - a demand the project hopes to satisfy.
“It’s history from the bottom up rather than the top down, a much more relatable explanation of the past,” Mr Craske said.
Chris Amos, project manager, said they were at the Forum to “build upon the already very good bank of volunteers”.
Echoing Mr Craske, he said: “People yearn for the past again, the time when things were simpler.”