Anthracite Memories: Semantic Tagging and Coal Mining Oral Histories

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Brown, Madeline and Paul A. Shackel. 2023. “Anthracite Memories: Semantic Tagging and Coal Mining Oral Histories.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 29(11): 1178-1194.


Oral histories are a critical source of information about lived experiences of past events. They have been analyzed both for their form – linguistically as texts, performances, and expressive accounts – and their content for understanding historic events and personal experiences. Here we focus on sentiment analysis approaches frequently applied to big data research questions, but less often utilized by anthropologists working with oral histories. Oral histories collected half a century ago in the anthracite mining communities of northeastern Pennsylvania are examined by considering methodological and historical questions. This project explores how oral history and data science might be productively combined to understand these now historic communities' everyday lives and working conditions. Bakhtin's (1981) concept of chronotope helps us understand the memory of these anthracite coal mining communities' daily life and working conditions.