Oceanic Exchanges Ontologies

Dr Melodee Beals and Dr Emily Bell – Social Sciences and Humanities

As part of Oceanic Exchanges, Dr Beals and Dr Bell led a two-year, six-nation project exploring the histories, structures and future of digitised newspaper collections around the world.

Over the past 30 years, millions of pages of historical newspapers have been digitised, creating a valuable resource for people worldwide. However, these nation-based programmes cannot offer a complete representation of their cultural history as they often mask the fact that a globalised news system emerged more than 200 years ago.

The team of nearly 40 international researchers pooled their wealth of knowledge, linguistic range, and long-standing relationships with local heritage sectors to address this issue.

Their work explains how to digitally rebuild the nineteenth-century global news network to better reflect its international and multicultural nature. More significantly, it maps collections, guiding the linking of independent databases in a holistic, system-driven manner.

Subsequent funding has supported wider dissemination, helping to improve the choice and availability of historical newspapers worldwide.

The project’s key outcome, The Atlas of Digitised Newspapers and Metadata – a unique Open Access guide to newspaper databases around the world – demonstrates the potential of international, multidisciplinary work in the humanities.

With readers in more than 60 countries, it is already becoming a recommended reference for potential users of online collections and is supported by ongoing workshops and webinars in the project’s partner countries.


Alongside publishers and national libraries in Australia, Finland, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, UK and US, the project partners included:

  • North Carolina State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Turun Yliopisto
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Universität Stuttgart
  • Universiteit Utrecht
  • University College London
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln