Monday, 16 April 2012

QueryPic: A New Tool for Historical Analysis

Thanks to historian and science archivist Tim Sherratt there is now a fantastic new tool for historical analysis. It is called QueryPic and graphs the frequency that keyword/s appear in newspaper articles on Trove. 

For those who are unaware the National Library of Australia's Trove service brought massive changes to the history and research scene in Australia with its digitised Australian newspapers. In addition to free online access to major newspapers it provides the opportunity to do searches across the text of all articles.

QueryPic uses information from Trove to tally the number of newspaper articles that mention chosen keyword/s, and then presents the results on a graph. The results brilliantly show changes or trends over time. It is a fantastic way to see when certain news, issues or activities were more prominent, and to track trends or identify previously unnoticed changes. Results can be viewed by the number of articles or the proportion of total articles.

Number of Articles on Library (blue), Education (red) and Unemployed (green)

Proportion of Total Articles containing Library (blue), Education (red) and Unemployed (green)

The simple graph may pinpoint when something became more or less of social concern. The above example is token but reveals points in time when unemployment was more prominent - with peaks in 1886, 1891, 1921 and 1931. It is highly probable that the graphs will sometimes return unexpected spikes or falls thereby allowing historians to delve into Trove to establish the reasons why.

Entering the regional town 'Carnamah' showed an exceptionally high jump from 1908 to 1909 that didn't parallel to the district's growth or prominence. Take a look at the Carnamah Historical Society's Blog for the interesting outcome.

QueryPic can be searched at and can also be used to return results from the titles of articles from New Zealand's Papers Past.

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