Databases and Challenges

[This post is also on my blog focused on creating a DH project]

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on establishing a chronology for Pastrana’s travels in both North America and Europe for a Neatline component to my project. The easiest part of this effort has been (by far) her travels in the United States. I’ve been able to find many digitization projects that are searchable, including Chronicling America: Historic American NewspapersFulton History, and the list of newspapers with links set up by Google (note: I’m specifically listing sites that are free, though I’ve also been using databases I have access to through my university library). I’ve also had some luck finding important articles in Mexican newspapers through HNDM (Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de México) and Austrian newspapers thanks to the ANNO: Austrian Newspapers Online website.

It’s not a surprise that I’ve found it easy to work with databases in English and Spanish (which I’ve studied but am not fluent in), but it was quite surprising that ANNO was so easy to use. I especially like how this website allows one to create OCR (Optical Character Recognition) transcriptions and Google translations of articles. I still need help with better translations of the German, but I’m in contact with someone who I hope will work on at least a few of the more important articles.

Now for the challenges. I’ve been able to track down digitized newspapers from Estonia, Germany, Poland and Russia (mostly through a list of newspapers on Google)–and I very much need to establish a chronology in these countries. Unfortunately, 1) these databases don’t yet have the ability to do keyword searches (in other words, I’d have to look at each issue individually) 2) since I don’t speak/read these languages, it’s really difficult to know what to look for.

So . . . although I have about 260 dates related to Pastrana’s performances, my data on the last year or so of her life is really spotty. I began this project thinking that I would just work on the United States, so I may have to return to that idea until I can find a work around for the challenges associated with language.

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