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An Archaeology of Victorian Newspapers
Abstract

Abstract:

This article tracks the transmission history of British newspapers from their nineteenth-century printing and library accession through microfilming and eventual digitization. It argues that scholarly use of digitized historical resources has overlooked a largely hidden history of how Victorian data gets to now. Studying Victorian periodicals against the longue durée of their mediation not only encompasses technological processes but also the discursive contexts in which those practices took shape, including twentieth-century political economies of global conflict, the intelligence community’s alliances with scholarly associations and research libraries, gendered and outsourced labor, and commercial techno-futurism. I follow the lead of several scholars in media studies and critical bibliography to outline—and then pursue—a method for investigating these material histories, an “archaeology” that enables us to better grasp the historiography of our research objects, which have arrived, for the moment, as digital. Such an approach is crucial not only for understanding the mediated conditions of scholarly materials but also for facilitating informed critique of the how they are created, sold, accessed, and used by casual users as well as scholars interested in computational techniques.