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Bringing history to life: Into the archives with Local Recall

PUBLISHED: 08:17 22 August 2019

In the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staff

In the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staff

Archant

A project which aims to give people access to more than a century's worth of Eastern Daily Press newspapers at the click of a button has seen almost 4.5m articles digitised.

In the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staffIn the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staff

Local Recall is an ambitious plan to digitise the entire Eastern Daily Press newspaper archives, making decades of local reporting and history accessible to the public.

The project was launched in 2017, when Archant -the publisher of the EDP and Evening News received funding to make the EDP newspaper archives, which had until then, lay gathering dust in Archant's library, publicly available.

But while digitising newspaper archives is not a new idea, what sets Local Recall apart from other schemes is its plans to utilise voice search and chatbot technology.

Meaning people will be able to access the archives using voice-enabled devices such as Amazon's Alexa or Google Home products and mobile phones to strike up a conversation and ask questions of the archive.

In the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staffIn the archives for Local Recall. Picture: staff

Joining forces with expert historical scanning companies TownsWeb Archiving and Find My Past, Norwich-based tech partners ubisend along with funding from the Google Digital News Innovation Fund, work began on digitising the archives in early 2018.

Since then, almost 4.5m articles have been digitised through a process of high resolution photography, optical character recognition software and proofreading by a dedicated team of more than 600 volunteers.

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Becky Brown (above), 32, from Cringleford, was one of hundreds to answer the call for volunteers to help digitise the archives, she said: "I signed up straightaway as I have a real love for history and researching.

Local Recall volunteer Becky brown. Picture: Becky BrownLocal Recall volunteer Becky brown. Picture: Becky Brown

"I really enjoy bringing local (sometimes not so local) history to life and giving people a voice again after all this time."

She said some of the most interesting articles she had come across were pages showing old advertisements: "Some of the highlights are the adverts you come across, such as 'Slim on the famous bread and butter diet in the national slimming campaign.' - a diet I can get behind."

Melanie Duncan (left), 47, from Hellesdon, got involved in the project after learning about it through Facebook, she said: "There are articles which have been amusing and incredibly sad as well as interesting and informative. I remember one or two from 1879 about the Zulu War, something I had only seen about in films.

"I've learned a lot and felt humbled by the way life was lived - especially in wartime.

Local Recall volunteer Mel Duncan. Picture: Mel DuncanLocal Recall volunteer Mel Duncan. Picture: Mel Duncan

"It's a window of memories into the intimate past that we might have no knowledge of otherwise. The project is an invaluable source of accessible information. I have enjoyed every minute of doing it so far."

Robin Keightley, 66, from Oulton Broad, added: "Working on the project is a bit like time travel, it has given me a wonderful insight into our region from the past.

"For anyone who has an interest in our regions history this project is a must!"

If you're interested in Norfolk's rich local history and news stories from days gone by, or would like a sneak peek at Local Recall, which aims to launch later this year as part of a new and exciting digital offering by the EDP, head over to localrecall.archant.co.uk/volunteer.

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