News & events

Old newspapers enriched with new technology

03/04/2019

Since 2015, 270,000 newspaper pages from the First World War can be consulted online at hetarchief.be. The 100th anniversary of the Great War – and so also of these newspapers – marks the end of the centenary commemorations. In order to stimulate use and improve research into the News from the Great War newspapers, we’ve now created useful connections by enriching them with linked data.

Enriching a website or database with linked data means you’re structuring the information in a way that allows you to perform semantic search queries – where searches are performed on the meaning of a word and not just on literal matches – and enabling machines to interpret the results. Linked data means that third parties, human or otherwise, can create links between your data and external data. This is a technique we were happy to explore possibilities for, and our collection of war newspapers is extremely suitable. We spent several months collaborating with Ghent University and PACKED to publish our own linked data – a project which was completed at the end of November.

Now we want to go a step further. On top of this publication, we also wanted to show what’s possible using linked data. We set to work on this with the In Flanders Fields Museum whose List of Names database contains data for more than 600,000 First World War casualties – from Belgian civilians to soldiers from far-off foreign countries who lost their lives here. We wanted to link the people in their database to the First World War newspapers in The Archive, and enrich our website with biographical information.

In-depth research resulted in some 1,1 million possible matches between the List of Names and our newspapers. In total there are 110,000 persons with an identical first and last name found on 102.729 of the 274.924 pages. Around two thirds of these people lost their lives in Belgium, although only half of the listed casualties were born here. Casualties are now highlighted in all the newspapers and enriched with biographical information, such as their place of birth and date of death, and you can easily find more information via a direct link to the List of Names itself.