Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Word on the Street

Broadsides from the National Library of Scotland

This is a particular exhibit featured on the National Library of Scotland's digital library's Web page. The Word on the Street features digitized copies of broadsides, which were the eighteenth century version of entertainment news.
The National Library of Scotland chose to digitize a large collection of various materials that represented different chapters of Scottish history and the broadsides offer a unique insight as to what interested the ordinary Scottish person three hundred years ago.

This particular digital collection of "broadsides" is pretty big: 1,800 digitized pictures out of a collection of 250,000. Each digitized broadside comes with an jpeg image of the original news-sheet, a full transcription of the text, a detailed commentary, and a downloadable PDF copy. The metadata that enables the user to search amongst the collection is grouped by subject search or element search (namely title, subject, or keywords). Also, with each broadside, the probable date of publication is listed, with cataloging numbers for reference.

The broadsides that have been digitized are of high quality, with historical value and are very entertaining to read. The images are in greyscale. Some have printed drawings, different fonts, and you can zoom into the broadside to read the article. When you click on a particular broadsheet, the curator or the librarian fill in the background with some specific commentary to add supplementary information to add value to the image.

As to what the intended audience may be, I would venture to guess that it aims to reach people involved in researching eighteenth century Scotland, Scottish history, folklore (since broadsides routinely published ballads and other forms of verse), and also attempts to interest everyone else.

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