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Publication Detail
Named Entity Recognition for early-modern textual sources: a review of capabilities and challenges with strategies for the future
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Humbel M, Nyhan J, Vlachidis A, Sloan K, Ortolja-Baird A
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Journal of Documentation
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Keywords:
    Artificial Intelligence, Information Extraction, Digital Humanities, Digital Cultural Heritage, Data Ethics, Data Criticism
Purpose: Named Entity Recognition (NER) can enhance the (re)search capabilities of digitised documents and infrastructure; it can also open new possibilities for the interlinking of digitised documents with wider knowledge domains and resources. We map out the current capabilities, challenges and limitations of NER and establish the state of the art of the technique in the context of digital early-modern research. Design/methodology/approach: We survey the application of NER to early modern documents through a systematic review of the literature (2002 to 2019). Given the ongoing reliance on rule-based NER among digital early-modern projects, we map the landscape of authority files. Furthermore, we present a new case study of NER research undertaken by Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloaneā€™s Catalogues of his Collections (2016-21), a Leverhulme funded research project and collaboration between the British Museum and University College London, with contributing expertise from the British Library and the Natural History Museum. Findings: Currently it is not possible to benchmark the capabilities of NER applied to documents of the early-modern period, because more robust reporting of NER approaches is required. We highlight open questions around the ethical and socio-cultural import of NER and authority files, and propose future directions that might be followed to push forward the state of the art. Originality: This paper brings together previously fragmented academic and grey literature on the technical elaboration and application of NER. We set out a comprehensive summary of digital tools and resources to apply NER to early-modern materials.
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