Melodee Helene Beals
Digital History, Department of Politics, History and International Relations, Loughborough University
As a historian of migration and media, I am interested in how the movements of peoples and ideas intersect in the long 18th century. As an advocate of the Digital Humanities, I explore the ways in which computer-aided methodologies enhance and shape our understanding and interaction with historical materials.
I am a Lecturer of Digital History at Loughborough University, contributing to university’s Communication, Culture and Citizenship Research Challenge and its Media and Communication History Research Group.
My research focuses on the culture of reprinting in the nineteenth century, experimenting with digital techniques to uncover evidence of undocumented editorial practices. Much like today, the nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented information-overload, as newspapers and magazines sprung up throughout the Atlantic, inundating readers with a wide-ranging and contradictory view of life at home and abroad. Written by anonymous authors, reused without permission and manipulated to suit the needs of different publishers, how consumers made sense of conflicting texts, and the extent to which consistency was even a concern for publishers, remains largely a mystery. Working with commercial and independent digitisers, I use plagiarism detection and concordance software to identify reprints of periodical texts, creating phylogenetic (evolutionary) trees of the reprinting process. Once completed, the project aims to provide humanities scholars with methodologies that will contribute to a better understanding of the influence exerted by and the connections forged between these publications.
As part of this work, I developed and currently maintain the Scissors and Paste Database (www.scissorsandpaste.net), a web portal to a free, collaborative repository of XML newspaper transcriptions. Through this site, my blog (www.mhbeals.com) and speaking engagements, I advocate for a shared vocabulary in historical TEI transcriptions and an attention to the longevity and particularly the reusability of historical data derived from small-scale or individual research projects.
An equally important part of my work is contributing to the development of the next generation of digital historians. Working with HistorySoTL and the East Midlands Centre for History Teaching, I promote a deeper integration of computer-aided research within the history curriculum and the creation of digital humanities concentrations at undergraduate level.