Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunny despite the rain

Well after several days solid work (spread out over 6 months) I have finished the search of the Digitised Australian Newspapers for information regarding the Sunny Corner Silver mine. I have clipped the information into a MS Word document which is 111 pages and has 63,959 words! Supporting this is another smaller document on Mitchell’s Creek (the name Sunny Corner had prior to silver being discovered) plus two largish files of Mines Department Records. Downloaded from DIGS.

There was an earlier history of Sunny Corner by Vicki Powys published in 1989 (Powys 1989). It is an excellent historical study. However since Powys research, the on-line revolution has arrived. So much hitherto hidden or difficult to research information has become available on-line.

When I did my first research in late 2008 I had access to Powys book and the Mines Department Records (via DIGS). The digital Australian Newspapers project was only just beginning meaning that I got some accounts of Sunny Corners that were reprinted in the Courier Mail. Last year, when I started this current research, I decided to search the digitised Australian Newspapers systematically and comprehensively as hundreds of papers had been added. Notable among these were the Sydney Morning Herald, the Town and Country Journal and the Bathurst Free Press which covered Sunny Corner.

Newspapers have been available for historians for many years but the difficulty has always been the immense task of systematically searching the newspapers for items of interest to a particular topic. The searchable Australian Newspapers allows a detailed searching of available newspapers so that general topics such as “silver smelting” can be searched as well as “Sunny Corner” or more specifically individuals like “John LaMonte”. This tool has transformed historical research by allowing a more systematic search across a number of publications in seconds.

Supporting such research is also the invaluable Google and the less known Internet Archive which contains numerous on-line copies of old manuals on arcane topics but which tell much about the process of silver smelting and other methods of processing silver-lead and zinc ore prior to the invention of froth floatation.

The Challenge

The challenge now is to turn these words into some form of understanding of Sunny Corner and the mining that occurred there in a reasonable number of words without getting bogged down in the detail.