Last Month’s Program

March 2, 2024

Newspaper Navigator: Reimagining Search & Discovery for Historic Newspapers
Presented by Benjamin Lee

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The 16-million digitized, historic newspaper pages within Chronicling America, a joint initiative by the Library of Congress and the NEH, represent an incredibly rich resource for a wide range of users. Historians, journalists, genealogists, students, and members of the American public explore the collection regularly via keyword search. But how do we navigate the abundant visual content? Newspaper Navigator is a project that I began while I was an Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress and a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, in collaboration with Library of Congress Labs, the National Digital Newspaper Program, and my PhD advisor, Professor Daniel Weld, at the University of Washington. I will discuss two components of the project. First, I will describe the Newspaper Navigator dataset, consisting of extracted headlines, images, illustrations, maps, comics, and editorial cartoons from millions of newspaper pages and constructed using machine learning. Second, I will describe the Newspaper Navigator search application, which reimagines how we can navigate this wealth of visual content through an exploratory search interface. I will end by describing possibilities for genealogists surrounding machine learning and AI.
Benjamin Charles Germain Lee is an incoming Assistant Professor in the Information School at the University of Washington, as well as a Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies at the Library of Congress. He recently received his Ph.D. in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of Washington, which was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in machine learning. He served as the inaugural Digital Humanities Associate Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as a Visiting Fellow in Harvard’s History Department. Ben also served as a 2020 Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress and the 2020-2021 Richard and Ina Willner Memorial Fellow in the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington. His public writing has appeared in publications including WIRED, Gawker, Current Affairs, and Real Life.