Tech history at your fingertips?

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Daedalus 1972 with Aina Stenberg's "Radiokväll" 1925.

Daedalus is the yearbook of the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology. It is nearly as old as the museum, and appeared in print 82 times during the period 1931-2015. The research project Digital Models, with funding from the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, has now given the museum an opportunity to scan, OCR and web publish the full Daedalus publication of about 15,000 pages.

The project management is hoping for the digital accessibility to open new paths to old collections, and raise new research interests. But it has also been extremely instructive for us, says Anna-Karin Nilsson Stål and Lotta Oudhuis from the museum. As this is a pilot, we’ve had a chance to look into a new and exciting field. We had great support by Swe-Clarin partners at the National Archives and the Language Bank, in deepening our understanding of language technology concepts and quality measurements for OCR. We’re definitely feeling better equipped now for future digitization projects. We see that increased access also leads to an increase in demand, and in the future we hope to be able to further enrich the essays with links to other information resources.

Daedalus of course has a lot to offer the historian of technology, but especially when combined with digital tools, it may also provide interesting source material for scholars from many other disciplines. You can here free text search the full corpus and find replies to plain queries like: Is Skåne or Dalecarlia more frequently mentioned? When is nuclear energy first mentioned? Is there anything in the publications about child labor or pollution?

But the really cool thing about this project is that it’s now possible to download Daedalus, or parts of it, as PDF, XML or Txt files. This opens for further analysis with NLP tools, such as the ones you find in the Swe-Clarin Toolbox. Thus, the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, along with many other institutions, is contributing to new opportunities for researchers in humanities and social sciences to cultivate the rich potential in digitized text. This is welcome!

/ Johanna Berg, Swedish National Archives