Journalism professor Randy Boswell was the guest speaker at the Feb. 11 annual general meeting of the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives, where he gave a presentation titled “Old News Scoops: Unearthing Overlooked Stories and Discovering Their Importance to the Archaeological and Environmental History of the Ottawa Valley.” Boswell extolled the virtues of digitizing old newspapers — a timely subject given the archive’s recent application for funding to digitize more than 100 years of the Arnprior Chronicle, the town’s principal news source since the late 1800s. Boswell recounted a recent research project in which he tapped digitized historical news sources to shed fresh light on an ancient Ottawa River archaeological site — a find that has deepened experts’ understanding of Indigenous history in the Ottawa region. He also discussed his use of 19th-century news databases to probe a Confederation-era controversy over sawdust pollution on the Ottawa, identifying a new intersection between the histories of Canadian environmentalism and the early Canadian public health movement. Finally, Boswell explained how his search last year through a historical U.S. news database solved a 60-year-old mystery about the origins of the landmark Elvis Presley hit Heartbreak Hotel — a discovery detailed last year in magazine piece published by Rolling Stone.
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