Andy Nicholson on the Nottinghamshire History website.
The website is the work of Andy Nicholson, a native of Winkburn (near Southwell), now living on the outskirts of Nottingham. Andy is a graduate in History (Leeds University) and Information Management (Sheffield University), worked as an archaeologist with West Yorkshire Archaeology Service in the 1980s and was, until July 2011, employed as a Knowledge Manager in the Regional Public Health Team of the Department of Health, based in Nottingham.
The website aims to make a wide range of material on the history and archaeology of Nottinghamshire accessible to genealogists, local historians and casual Internet users with an interest in this relatively unknown county.
The website was inspired by the work undertaken by Project Gutenberg which aims to make copyright-free information, books and other materials available to the general public by publishing the texts electronically on the Internet. Impressed by the project’s philosophy, Andrew has embarked on a long-term project to make older material on Nottinghamshire local history that is rare outside of local studies libraries and second-hand bookshops accessible on the Internet. In the Spring of 2001 he started work on Cornelius Brown’s A History of Nottinghamshire, originally published in 1896, to evaluate the issues and problems involved in converting hard copy to electronic text.
Brown (1852-1907) was a journalist and historian, author of a wide range of publications on Nottinghamshire history, including the magnificent and still definitive two-volume work, A History of Newark (1905 and 1907). A History of Nottinghamshire was written with a general audience in mind and provides an historical account of the notable towns and villages in the county, the great county families and the English Civil War in Nottinghamshire. The book grew out of a series of articles Brown wrote for the Notts Daily Guardian in the late 1880s, and although popular in style, is informed by the work of leading contemporary historians such as W H Stevenson, John Raine and J T Godfrey and also key historical sources such as Records of the Borough of Nottingham, and the PRO Calendars and HMC reports published in the late nineteenth century.
Digitising old texts is a very slow process. Using a tattered, loose-bound, well thumbed copy of Brown’s book Andy scanned every page into OCR (optical character recognition) software which converted the page images into text that are then tidied up and edited in a word processing package. In parallel, he also assembled a rich collection of old illustrations, photographs and drawings and scanned them too. Text and images were then combined to create a series of linked webpages by using a website development package called Dreamweaver and uploaded to a webserver: the book is now available online to anyone with an Internet connection.
Other key texts have been added subsequently: Leonard Jack’s The Great Houses of Nottinghamshire and the County Families (1881), White’s History of Worksop (1875), Piercy’s History of Retford (1828), Swinnertons’ Geography of Nottinghamshire (1910), Allen’s Guide to Nottingham (1888), Holland Walker’s Links with Old Nottingham (1928) and Rev Baron von Hube’s history of Greasley parish. Articles, principally from Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire (covering a wide variety of subjects, from parish church architecture to the 18th century life of the Countess of Oxford) and booklets (e.g. the Rev. Bruces’ Book of Clifton) are being added on a regular basis.
The work continues…