A Full-Text Search Tool for the Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress07-29-2021
Note from the Hannah Arendt Center; On June 16th the Hannah Arendt Center hosted a panel discussion to celebrate the launch of the new Library of Congress Hannah Arendt Papers digital archive. You can watch it here. Rob McQueen, one of our members, has now created a supplemental search tool that enables full-text searches of the archive. McQueen explains his new search tool below.
On June 16th, the Library of Congress relaunched the Hannah Arendt Papers digital archive, a new site enabling access to more than 70,000 documents from Hannah Arendt’s personal archive. Today, I would like to introduce to you a new tool, called the Arendt Index (https://arendtindex.com). This new tool adds the ability to perform full-text searches on the Arendt Archive.
Full-text search allows you to find documents in the Arendt Archive more quickly. Think “Google” but for Hannah Arendt. For example, let’s assume you’re looking for documents that refer both to “totalitarianism” and “freedom”. Simply navigate to the tool, enter those terms into the search bar, and press enter. The tool will then return a series of documents most relevant to your search.
What distinguishes the Arendt Index from the Library of Congress Site is the way each implements search. The Library of Congress supports search, but only for a limited set of keywords. The Arendt Index, on the other hand, parses all the documents in the Library of Congress archive using Google’s Machine Learning OCR engine, which detects textual content in images (including handwriting). The Arendt Index then uses these results and loads them into a search engine database. It is important to note that some of the documents include handwriting that is not legible (even for supercomputers!). So the results will not always be perfect, but they are good enough for basic search functionality.
One more feature to note: on the left hand panel, the tool shows the most relevant collections for your search. This feature gives you a higher-level view of which types of documents resonant with your search. For example, by searching “vita activa” the tool returns the collection with the most results: “Clippings, 1942-1975; Reviews; Vita activa oder Vom tätigen Leben; 1960-1961”. You can then click on that collection to filter your results for that collection only. You can apply this filter for any search and perform searches on specific collections.
The tool is free to use and works best on desktop computers and is supported by all major web browsers (e.g. Chrome, Safari, Edge). If you have any questions, feature requests, or general feedback, feel free to contact the creator, Rob McQueen, robmcqn “at” gmail “dot” com