AI and Historical Newspapers workshop (invitation only)

10-11 May 2023

Organisers: Mia Ridge (British Library and Living with Machines) and Beth Gaskell (British Library)

A number of important projects working with digitised newspaper collections have produced significant results in recent years. Simultaneously, advances in AI have made powerful text processing and computer vision methods more easily accessible. Cumulatively, we now understand more about how different researchers want to use digitised newspapers. How do developments in the past few years change what’s possible with digitised newspapers?

This workshop asks two key questions: a) what can we learn from the experiences of recent past and current projects, and b) what could a future ‘digitised newspapers’ project do with emergent and improved AI methods?

That is, which issues in working with digitised periodicals are newly- or close to-solved, and what ‘hard problems’ remain?

This workshop is limited to 20 participants. Those confirmed include: Ben Lee, Clemens Neudecker, Emily Bell, Guillaume Bernard, Jean-Philippe Moreux, Jim Mussell, Kaspar Beelen, Laurel Brake, Mark Turner, Marten During, Maud Ehrmann, Melvin Wevers, Paul Fyfe, Thomas Smits, Yann Ryan.

Past Events ---------------------------------------------

BOOK LAUNCH Collaborative Historical Research in the Age of Big Data: Lessons from an interdisciplinary project

Tuesday, 7 March 2023, 5PM
Hosts: Jane Winters, James Smithies
Speakers: Ruth Ahnert, Emma Griffin, Mia Ridge, Giorgia Tolfo

Please join us for the launch of our short open access book, Collaborative Historical Research in the Age of Big Data: Lessons from an interdisciplinary project (available open access here). The event will be an online roundtable discussion, led by hosts Professor Jane Winters and Professor James Smithies, with the authors, Professor Ruth Ahnert, Professor Emma Griffin, Dr Mia Ridge and Dr Giorgia Tolfo.

Living with Machines is one of the largest digital humanities projects ever funded in the United Kingdom. The project brought together a large interdisciplinary team (39 members over its lifetime) to leverage more than twenty-years’ worth of digitisation projects in order to deepen our understanding of the impact of mechanisation on nineteenth-century Britain. In contrast to many previous digital humanities projects which have sought to create resources, the project was concerned to work with what was already there, which whilst straightforward in theory is complex in practice. This Element describes the efforts to do so. It outlines the challenges of establishing and managing a truly multidisciplinary digital humanities project in the complex landscape of cultural data in the United Kingdom and shares what other projects seeking to undertake digital history projects can learn from the experience.

This event is part of AI UK 2023. The Alan Turing Institute’s national showcase of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence research and innovation.

At a series of events between 6 – 31 March 2023, AI UK Fringe brings together leaders in academia from across the UK’s AI ecosystem to demonstrate, exhibit and update on their ground-breaking work.

We’re excited to be part of AI UK Fringe this March and can’t wait for you to join our community and contribute to key conversations.

Register here.


Machine Learning Approaches for Historical Trade Directories: an exploratory workshop

Living with Machines x Congruence Engine, 6-7 December 2022

On 6-7 December the Alan Turing Institute will play host to a joint workshop / hack, co-sponsored by ‘Living with Machines’ and the ‘Congruence Engine’, one of the AHRC’s [TaNC Discovery Projects] (based at the Science Museum Group).

This event, led by Daniel Wilson, will focus on the two projects’ shared interest in making historical trade directories ready for computational research. Trade directories are an unparalleled primary source for understanding social and economic life in Britain. These have been digitised in large numbers, above all by the University of Leicester; however, it remains difficult to make use of these materials to conduct systematic searches ‘at scale’, primarily because of the heterogenous layout and printing of the texts.

This workshop will assemble around twenty specialists, researchers, software engineers, curators and historians, for an intense two-day sprint. Together, we will explore the use of cutting-edge methods in computer vision, document and layout analysis to help make these incredibly rich historical sources available to researchers.

If you are interested in following the results of this work, please get in touch directly or follow our blog and other feeds for updates.

Living with Machines: Study Day

Friday, 2 December 2022

The Living with Machines exhibition is a collaboration between Leeds Museums and Galleries, the British Library, and the Living with Machines research project. This study day is a unique opportunity to hear experts in the field illuminate key themes from the exhibition and learn how exhibition co-curators found stories and objects to represent research work in AI and digital history.

This study day is online via Zoom so that you can attend from anywhere. A link will be sent out with your e-ticket for the event.

Find out more about the Programme here.


Dr Emma Griffin, Professor of Modern British History, University of East Anglia
Dr Mia Ridge, Digital Curator, British Library
Dr Gillian Cookson, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Leeds
Dr Daniel Blackie, Senior Research Fellow, Tampere University, Finland
Dr David Turner
Kitty Ross, Curator of Leeds History and Social History, Leeds Museums and Galleries
John McGoldrick, Curator of Industrial History, Leeds Museums and Galleries

Our Funder and Partners