Press Picker

Making sense of the British Library's newspapers

Press Picker

Team: Olivia Vane, Kasra Hosseini and Giorgia Tolfo

Developed for Living with Machines


British and Irish Newspapers: A title-level list of British, Irish, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies newspapers held by the British Library. Dataset credit: British Library Contemporary British and Collections Metadata teams


Python / Jupyter notebook + JavaScript / D3

D3 JS viz in a Python Jupyter notebook demo on Github

The British Library holds over 700 million pages of historical newspapers. As this collection is digitised, how can we balance cost, speed, and historical interest when choosing which titles to digitise next? Developed as part of the Living with Machines project, Press Picker is a new tool for making sense of the British Library's newspaper holdings.

Press Picker shows the undigitised titles and the different formats they are held in (hardbound volumes shown in red, or copies on microfilm—a kind of film reel—in black/dashed). For each title (eg. The Times or The Blackpool Herald) a small line graph shows the number of holdings per year. Format is important for planning digitisation; the hardcopy volumes take longer and cost more to digitise and there can be delays if conservation is needed.

How to read Press Picker

To complicate things, newspapers sometimes change their name through time. For example, The Athletic Reporter in 1886 becomes The Reporter, which in 1888 becomes The Midland Counties Reporter and General Advertiser, which in 1889 becomes The Reporter and General Advertiser, which in 1890 becomes The Coventry Reporter and General Advertiser. Title name changes are pretty common in this collection. Press Picker helps to make this clear by bringing together connected titles with a branching design to the left.

You can read more about Press Picker on the Living with Machines blog.

How to read Press Picker

Press Picker consists of two Python Jupyter notebooks. The first notebook does data filtering and processing. The second visualises the data. We created a custom visualisation in JavaScript / D3.js embedded in the Jupyter notebook. Read about how to embed a D3.js visualisation in a Python Jupyter notebook in this blog post and see this demo notebook.

Press Picker visualisation

Video demo showing Press Picker visualisation embedded in a Jupyter notebook