History of West Australia by W. B. Kimberly

How thoughtful of Nature to not be disturbed by people.

It was near to the ship, and there Mr. Broadhurst found the traces of two distinct camps, which nearly a century and a half had not obliterated. Indentations were still apparent in the ground made by the feet of the company while moving, in the form of a half circle, round the camps. Captain Stokes saw the bones of seals which had evidently been killed for subsistence, and these Mr. Broadhurst also found. Nature, in thoughtfulness, had not rudely obliterated these traces of such remarkable occurrences, and in the neighbourhood, amid sad memories, Mr. Broadhurst’s quest disclosed a varied selection of articles.

History of West Australia, by Warren Bert Kimberly, 1897. Wikisource edition.

Wiki Wednesday

Because I never make the time elsewhere to get anything done, I have decided to schedule in an hour or so — just a tiny bit of time, but regular (and here I am, for the second time) — every Wednesday afternoon at the local library, to focus on Wikimedia stuff. Not that I’m very active, and who knows if I’ll succeed in getting anything done; but I’d like to. There’s a whole number of things I want to work on. This plan for QR codes in Freo is spurning me on for one, but today it’s just Geffrard that I want to focus on…

The Geffrard was a ship that sunk south of here in 1875, and my great-great-great-uncle was her master at the time. We (my mum and me, that is; she’s become rather a dedicated genealogist in the last year!) are gathering more and more sources, and soon there will be enough to write something up (whether notable or not, I dunno). Right now, we’re transcribing the inquiry into the shipwreck on Wikisource. So I’ll get cracking on with that…

* * *

Power point in the Freo library with a sign hanging over it prohibiting use for personal equipmentExcept! :-( Except that the library’s wifi seems to be failing me, and (worse) my battery is flat and this place doesn’t provide a single power point for laptops. I think that’s a shame. I mean, I know there’s some arguments around about libraries being places for books, and quiet reading, and whatnot… but really, I’d far rather they were places of general learning and exploration and intellectual inquiry and… well, y’know… all that. It seems that a library full of laptops (and this one, tonight, is just that; I counted eight just now when I went looking for power) is a pretty great thing; certainly on a par with a library full of noisy children (and this one is also that). So, are they just looked on as ‘distractions’? Or we don’t want the place filled up for twelve hours a day with pauper uni students looking for free wifi and some warmth? Or is there some OH&S ruling lurking somewhere? If I had my power cable tested and tagged, would that let me in?! Surely, nerding it up in libraries should be encouraged — it’s far cheaper, if nothing else, than the library service supplying all of these computers itself.

Anyway, don’t let me rant on about that. I’ll get back to preparing some scans of our captain’s Masters Certificate for upload to Commons, and I’ll be back next week with a full battery!

Wikisource now exports

Wikisource has begun, at long last, to be able to produce export formats for its books. PDF and Epub have been made available in the last week or so, the first via the WMF-wide book creator tool (which has just started supporting the <pages /> markup that is used on Wikisource to assemble transcribed books) and the second thanks to a script from Italy.

20 million books in my library

I really like digital, online, libraries. Like Wikisource and Project Gutenberg. They make me feel like I’ve got a huge personal library, that I can delve into whenever I feel like it. They’re not quite as good as, say, Chifley, from the point of view of strolling calmly along the stacks and discovering something exciting and new quite by chance… but then, there isn’t the satisfaction in a big library, of (once one’s found something exciting) reading absolutely-everything-else-that-author-wrote!

So I like helping add to these libraries — mainly Wikisource, because it’s easier and I like the page-by-page comparison of the scanned and digital texts — because I feel like I’m adding to my own library. Which is exciting, because then I’ve got more to read (and there’s no big library around here).


32GB of public domain Royal Society articles now available

18,592 public domain (i.e. pre-1923) scientific papers from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society are now available for anyone to download.

An extract from the README:


Several years ago I came into possession, through rather boring and
lawful means, of a large collection of JSTOR documents.

These particular documents are the historic back archives of the
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society — a prestigious
scientific journal with a history extending back to the 1600s.

The portion of the collection included in this archive, ones published
prior to 1923 and therefore obviously in the public domain, total some
18,592 papers and 33 gigabytes of data.

The documents are part of the shared heritage of all mankind,
and are rightfully in the public domain, but they are not available
freely. Instead the articles are available at $19 each–for one month’s
viewing, by one person, on one computer. It’s a steal. From you.

When I received these documents I had grand plans of uploading them to
Wikipedia’s sister site for reference works, Wikisource — where they
could be tightly interlinked with Wikipedia, providing interesting
historical context to the encyclopedia articles. For example, Uranus
was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel; why not take a look at
the paper where he originally disclosed his discovery? (Or one of the
several follow on publications about its satellites, or the dozens of
other papers he authored?)

But I soon found the reality of the situation to be less than appealing:
publishing the documents freely was likely to bring frivolous litigation
from the publishers.


—Greg Maxwell, July 20th 2011.

On saving bits of the web (but not why it’s worth it)

172 doomed BBC websites saved by one geek, for $3.99 [Local archive]

I used to not bother saving anything that I read on the web, figuring that it was all either insignificant ephemera or would be there forever. Now, I save whatever takes my fancy — not aiming at comprehensiveness (of course! I’m not the IA) — and stick it up wherever seems fitting (Wikisource, if it fits there, or one of my own sites).

Of course, there’s no guarantee that *my* copies of this stuff will survive, but that’s why *everyone* should save the things they think are interesting. That way, there’s multiple copies (hmm, which reminds me of LOCKSS), and it also gives some insight into the person doing the saving — personal archives are often more interesting than institutional…

Indexing Newspapers

I have been working again this morning down at the Local History Collection at the library.  The newspaper clippings’ catalogue is progressing — up to a hundred and thirty clippings so far — and proving to be quite an interesting project.  This morning I got up to the end of 1953, the beginning of ’54, and the Royal Visit (I’m working through a chronological scrapbook of old clippings).  If the selection of news that was considered worthy of preservation is anything to go by (and it probably isn’t), the whole of Fremantle was happy and excited about the Queen’s passage through the city, to the exclusion of everything else.

But there was other stuff happening, such as the seemingly never-ending discussions about the new bus terminal outside the train station, and someone’s idea to amalgamate East Fremantle and the FCC (they even wanted a referrendum).

I was playing a bit with adding notes about the people in these articles to pages on ArchivesWiki. Generally they’re not notable enough for Wikipedia, and I haven’t yet found a good, similar, project that accepts ramdom little snippets about random people. I’ve a slight idea of working on some sort of ‘local history wiki’ for Fremantle, with pages about any and all people, places, buildings, etc. — but I don’t suppose it’ll take off.

It’s frustrating, reading through these newspaper clippings and not being able to put the full text up anywhere (although I have put the East Freo one above on Wikisource), and not assimilating their information into relevant, composite, articles. It just makes it feel more satisfying, if when I find a reference to some doing of Mr. McCombe the Town Clarke, I note it down on his biography. So I think I’ll do more of that.

Further Afield

I think there is a need for a general, world-wide, catalogue of newspaper articles, both historical and modern. Wikisource can’t be it, because it strives for full texts, and all modern newspaper material is under copyright. I envisage something pretty simple, that just catches headlines, summaries, and keywords (and of course source data). It’s not that hard to find libraries that have access to newspaper material, but it’s usually in microform and so utterly unusable if you don’t know what date/page you’re looking for. An index is needed!

The National Library of Australia’s new Australian Newspapers site looks pretty fantastic, and assuming they do end up digatising everything (which I think is the aim), will effectively supplant things like Wikisource so far as public domain material goes. But they’re still stuck when it comes to contemporary newspapers.

But I won’t ramble on about this any more; I’ve got daft blathering about systems development to get on with.