Jewish bond, 1221 (Catalogue reference: WARD 2/60/234/63)

08 February

The National Archives is supplying digital data from its catalogue to an international partnership of historians, archivists and computer scientists to help make historical documents more accessible.

The Charter Excavator (ChartEx) project will use technologies and data management techniques typically used in the sciences to provide historical researchers with new ways to explore medieval and early modern documents relating to the buying and selling of property in England and Wales.

Collaboration and innovation

Current natural language processing and data mining techniques will be employed alongside historical and archival knowledge to develop innovative tools. These tools will extract details from the text of individual private property deeds, and uncover much more about the lives and concerns of people from up to 800 years ago.

The departments of History and Human Computer Interaction Research at the University of York will head the project, which is funded by JISC's prestigious Digging into Data challenge. Project partners at the universities of York, Brighton, Leiden, Toronto, Washington and Columbia will also collaborate with archivists at The National Archives and York's Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Aiding historical research

Dr Sean Cunningham, The National Archives' representative on the ChartEx project, said:
'Historians and archivists have for a long time sought to use the latest technology to make the raw materials of historical research more accessible. Medieval and early modern specialists have had a harder task in overcoming the problems of handwriting, language and layout associated with their source material. This has previously deterred some researchers from digging into the vast quantity of surviving documents.

'ChartEx promises to create new ways of dealing with historical data that could reveal so much more about people and places in the past than traditional methods of investigation. This is a very exciting project that could really change how historians might approach early records collections.'

Find out more about the ChartEx project.