Valerie Stevenson, Head of Research and Learner Support at LJMU’s Aldham Roberts Learning Resource Centre, introduced the Punch and the Victorian Periodical Press Collection. A satirical magazine, Punch or the London Charivari ran from 1841-2002. It was printed weekly in a standardised format, containing text and image. It is a highly useful resource in that the magazines can be used to give context to literary or historical moments. For example, the case of Jack the Ripper and serial killers in London give historical insight into the social concerns surrounding the novella Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It can also be used solely on its own merits, as a primary resource.
Liverpool John Moores’ database of the Punch Ledgers, on which Clare Horrocks has been working for a number of years, offers a special insight into the inner workings of Punch. As Clare demonstrated, the Ledgers, and their digitised excel counterparts, contain such details as the names of contributors, their pay, the length of their pieces, dates and occasionally ‘social cuts’ engravings over half a column are listed. The aims of this session were to establish a context for the project, examine the methodology used, to consider the presentation of data and to introduce the new supporting research site.
Among the topics of discussion was the problems surrounding the process of digitising and transcribing the text; issues such as whether or not to retain abbreviations, original spellings and if a list of variants should be produced to accompany the ledgers. Another specific problem to have arisen is the question of year, date and volume issues as there is some confusion over the recording of dates, especially a problem of cross-referencing the ledgers with different bound volumes of the magazine leading to identification issues.
Collaborative development of the project could be encouraged through contributor biographies and in-depth reports, use of the collection as a special resource, teaching and learning and even an events program to generate interest and broaden the scope of users of the collection. The supporting resource site will also aid this endeavour by helping to contextualise the data.
The session also contained a presentation by Gale Cengage about additions to their newspaper archives in which they invited debate over different user needs and the ways in which users might contribute to and enhance their resources. This provoked a lively discussion over the use of such resources and future directions in digital humanities.
Laura Parnaby is an Research Masters student in Literature and Cultural History, working on Video Game Narratives.