The Data Visualisation Revolution – From Plotting Distance to Digital Humanities

Data visualistion example - graphs on laptop

│By Emily Priest, Digital Marketing Masters student at the University of Portsmouth│

At first glance, data visualisation and Digital Humanities can seem complex and technical, but both offer significant possibilities to students, researchers and business professionals (the latter is also significant to students, as many are interested in increasing their future employability!) Whilst you may not feel particularly familiar with these terms, the data revolution is already here! So, buckle up and join me as we take a ride through the history and current applications of data visualisation and Digital Humanities!

Simplistically, data visualisation is the use of graphics and images to present data sets. Common examples include pie charts, word clouds and line graphs. Over the years, these visualisation techniques have become increasingly common – and increasingly complex. Whilst they have contributed to the emerging discipline of Digital Humanities, the term Digital Humanities refers to more than simply visualising data. Keeping Humanities at its heart, Digital Humanities leverages data visualisation to expand and deepen the traditional analysis that takes place within these disciplines.

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Canaries in the Coal Mine

Photo of Canary

│By Amelie Bonney, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford│

Most of us see bright-feathered, warbling canaries as pets, yet these tiny birds were not always just household companions. In the nineteenth century they were used as exceptional risk predictors in mines. This was because they were particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide, a substance which led to numerous mining accidents in the aftermath of industrialisation. Thus, oddly, an increasing reliance on fossil fuels induced a new rapport with nature and animals. The canary’s role in mines became so engrained in the English language that “a canary in the coalmine” is now a well-known phrase, used to refer to early indicators of potential hazards. Gale’s Historical Newspapers allow us to better understand how the canary came to be emblematic of shifting attitudes towards risk during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the English-speaking world.

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The Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic – Who Was Bruce Ismay?

Titanic (photo of drawing)

│by Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

Often students such as myself have a broad idea of the topic they’re interested in, but they’re not sure which angle to take. In these cases it might be helpful to talk to a friend, professor or peer who may provide interesting insight or suggestions. Gale Primary Sources is also a great platform to find both ideas and articles – you can turn to it when you’re still looking for a topic or when you have a defined notion of what you’re looking for and want to dig deeper. In this blog post I will show you how you can use different tools to go from having a vague topic, to developing an angle, to writing a narrative or argument.

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Are We Obsessed with Serial Killers?

Newspaper advert for a book: What makes a serial killer?

│By Chloe Villalon, Gale Ambassador at the National University of Ireland Galway│

In the last decade, television series such as Dexter, Mindhunter and Bates Motel have encountered overwhelming success. Based on true events or completely fictional, the narratives are told from the investigators’ or killer’s perspective. The public is not only interested in the gory, bloody aspect of serial killing cases but the science behind understanding and catching serial killers. Many such programmes try to answer the key question: Why do serial killers kill? Using Gale Primary Sources and its many research tools, I will use this blog post to explore the topic of serial killers, considering questions such as: where does the term “serial killer” come from and what does it mean? And what is the role of the media in serial killing cases?

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The Japanese Jugglers Who Took the West by Storm

"The Japanese Jugglers." Illustrated London News, 23 Feb. 1867, p. 176. The Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003

│By Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Gale Japan│

One of the great things about Gale Primary Sources is the serendipity – the unexpected discoveries you make when you were looking for one thing, and stumble on something totally different yet fascinating. While I was searching for material to use in my blog post about the Paris International Exposition of 1867, I made a quirky discovery. That blog post was about Tokugawa Akitake, the teenage half-brother of the Shogun of Japan, who came to Paris with his retinue in 1867 in order to exhibit at the Exposition and mingle with various European sovereigns. I was typing broad keywords into Gale Primary Sources, such as “Japanese” and “Paris,” with a date limiter of 1867. Sure enough, the cross-search platform returned newspaper articles that were obviously related to my topic, such as:

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Comfy in a Corset – Why Nineteenth-century Underwear Isn’t as Scary as You Think

"DOUGLAS & SHERWOOD'S CELEBRATED TOURNURE CORSET. (Front view)." Godey's Lady's Book, 1 Apr. 1859, p. 296. American Historical Periodicals,

│ By Maya Thomas, Gale Ambassador at the University of Oxford │

From Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind to Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean, it seems that no pretty woman in a historical drama is complete without participating in the infamous “corset scene”. You know the one: the beautiful protagonist reluctantly sucks in her stomach, gripping onto the bedposts as a maid furiously tugs at her corset strings. We watch with morbid fascination as her tiny waist is made tinier still, compressed painfully in an ornate whalebone cage.

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Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld – A Great Arctic Explorer of the Nineteenth Century

By Pauli Kettunen, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki
I am a second-year student in a programme ambitiously titled ‘Society and Change’ – there is not enough space to describe it here, if you had started wondering! At the university, my main interests are in Political History, in addition to all the other things concerning the History of Civil Society. In my free time I like cooking, reading, exercising, complaining about politics, and gaming. My latest addiction is reading science fiction by Alastair Reynolds.

One hundred and forty years ago, the world was speculating about the survival of a significant arctic exploration party. One can read, for example this article in The Western Daily Press, one of the periodicals included in Gale’s British Library Newspapers. With Professor Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld leading the expedition, the steamer Vega had departed on August 27th, 1878 for the Northeast Passage, the shipping route to the Pacific Ocean along the Arctic Ocean coasts of Norway and Russia. As radio technology had not yet been developed, there were no means for the press to get in touch with Nordenskiöld and his crew. In the reporter’s words, “More than seven and a-half months have…now elapsed and nothing more has been heard of him.” Nevertheless, the newspaper firmly believed that the expedition would be safe, possibly having stopped to spend the winter at “the sheltered bay of Kulynchinska.” Without faster means to confirm this, organisations that had invested in Nordenskiöld’s expedition, or were otherwise interested in the Northeast Passage, were planning to send out search parties to look for the Vega.

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