Digital platforms offer the opportunity to interact and engage with historical materials in new and unique ways. When periodicals are first published, they are meant to be held in the hand. Periodicals are not necessarily read from front to back. Readers can flip through the pages and pause to read what catches the eye. This casual, serendipitous engagement with the text is often obscured by digital interfaces, which either cut content into little pieces or situate the periodical in a book-like framework.
Digitised materials can certainly be browsed, but the physical interface both visibly and invisibly restricts unstructured engagement. You can certainly flip through the PDFs and single images on the BLT19 site, but navigating between pages can be a slow, clunky process.
To give site users the opportunity to browse the BLT19 periodicals in a looser, less linear way, we uploaded the publications into the Metabotnik tool, which was developed by Etienne Posthumus and the University of Amsterdam, NWO, and Arkyves.org. Metabotnik creates a single image file of the entire run of issues, allowing the user to scan, browse, and zoom in on content that catches the eye. It also gives a distant view of the periodical over time, suggesting layout and image patterns that might not be evident otherwise.
The Metabotnik interface is image based. It does not allow text searching. It is best used as a way to get the “big picture” of a publication before moving to the more traditional, searchable versions on the separate British Workman and Stationery Trade Review pages.