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notebooks ready for full run Mar 25, 2020

Newspaper Navigator

By Benjamin Charles Germain Lee (2020 Library of Congress Innovator-in-Residence)


The goal of Newspaper Navigator is to re-imagine searching over Chronicling America. The project consists of two stages:

  • Creating the Newspaper Navigator dataset by extracting headlines, photographs, illustrations, maps, comics, cartoons, and advertisements from millions of Chronicling America pages using emerging machine learning techniques. In addition to the visual content, the dataset will include captions and other relevant text derived from the METS/ALTO OCR, as well as image embeddings for fast similarity querying. The dataset will be released shortly.
  • Reimagining an exploratory search interface over the collection in order to enable new ways for the American public to navigate the collection.

This project is currently under development, and updates to the documentation will be made as the project unfolds throughout the year.

What's Implemented So Far

This code base explores using the Beyond Words crowdsourced bounding box annotations of photographs, illustrations, comics, cartoons, and maps, as well as additional annotations of headlines and advertisements, to finetune a pre-trained object detection model to detect visual content in historical newspaper scans. This finetuned model is incorporated into a pipeline for extracting content from millions of newspaper pages in the Chronicling America. This includes not only visual content but also captions and corresponding textual content from the METS/ALTO OCR of each Chronicling America page. In addition, the pipeline produces image embeddings for fast similarity querying over the extracted visual content. Here is a diagram of the pipeline workflow:

Alt text


If you'd like to read about this work in depth, you can find a whitepaper describing the progress made so far in whitepaper. The paper contains a more detailed description of the code, benchmarks, and related work (this whitepaper will be updated within soon, when the Newspaper Navigator dataset is released).

Training Dataset for Visual Content Recognition in Historic Newspapers

The Beyond Words dataset consists of crowdsourced locations of photographs, illustrations, comics, cartoons, and maps in World War I era newspapers, as well as corresponding textual content (titles, captions, artists, etc.). In order to utilize this dataset to train a visual content recognition model for historical newspaper scans, a copy of the dataset can be found in this repo (in /beyond_words_data/) formatted according to the COCO standard for object detection. The images are stored in /beyond_words_data/images/, and the JSON can be found in /beyond_words_data/trainval.json. The JSON also includes annotations of headlines and advertisements, as well as annotations for additional pages with maps to boost the number of maps in the dataset. These annotations were all done by one person (myself) and thus are unverified. The breakdown is as follows:

The dataset contains 3,437 images with 6,732 verified annotations (downloaded from the Beyond Words site on 12/01/2019), plus an additional 32,424 unverified annotations. Here is a breakdown of categories:

Category # in Full Dataset
Photograph 4,254
Illustration 1,048
Map 215
Comics/Cartoon 1,150
Editorial Cartoon 293
Headline 27,868
Advertisement 13,581
Total 48,409

If you would like to use only the verified Beyond Words data, just disregard the headline and advertisement annotations, as well as the annotations for any image added after 12/1/2019.

For an 80%-20% split of the dataset, see /beyond_words_data/train_80_percent.json and /beyond_words_data/val_20_percent.json. Lastly, the original verified annotations from the Beyond Words site can be found at beyond_words_data/beyond_words.txt.

To construct the dataset using the Beyond Words annotations added since 12/01/2019, first update the annotations file from the Beyond Words website, then run the script To add the additional headline and advertisement annotations, you can retrieve them from /beyond_words_data/trainval.json and add them to your dataset.

Detecting and Extracting Visual Content from Historic Newspaper Scans

With this dataset fully constructed, it is possible to train a deep learning model to identify visual content and classify the content according to 7 classes (photograph, illustration, map, comic, editorial cartoon, headline, advertisement). The approach utilized here is to finetune a pre-trained Faster-RCNN impelementation in Detectron2's Model Zoo in PyTorch.

I have included scripts and notebooks designed to run out-of-the-box on most deep learning environments (tested on an AWS EC2 instance with a Deep Learning Ubuntu AMI). Below are the steps to get running on any deep learning environment with Python 3, PyTorch, and the standard scientific computing packages shipped with Anaconda:

  1. Clone this repo.
  2. Next, run /install-scripts/ in order to install Detectron2, as well as all of its dependencies. Due to some deprecated code in pycocotools, you may need to change "unicode" to "bytes" in line 308 of ~/anaconda3/lib/python3.6/site-packages/pycocotools/ in order to enable the test evaluation in Detectron2 to work correctly. If the above installation package fails, I recommend following the steps on the Detectron2 repo for installation.
  3. For the pipeline code, you'll need to clone a forked version of img2vec that I modified to include ResNet-50 embedding functionality. Then cd img2vec and run python install.

To experiment with training your own visual content recognition model, run the command jupyter notebook and navigate to the notebook /notebooks/train_model.ipynb, which contains code for finetuning Faster-RCNN implementations from Detectron2's Model Zoo - the notebook is pre-populated with the output from training the model for 10 epochs (scroll down to the bottom to see some sample predictions). If everything is installed correctly, the notebook should run without any additional steps!

Processing Your Own Newspaper Pages

Included in this repo are the model weights for a finetuned Faster-RCNN implementation (the R50-FPN backbone from Detectron2's Model Zoo). The model weights are used in the Newspaper Navigator pipeline for the construction of the Newspaper Navigator dataset. The R50-FPN backbone was selected because it has the fastest inference time of the Faster-RCNN backbones, and inference time is the bottleneck in Newspaper Navigator pipeline (approximately 0.1 seconds per image on an NVIDIA T4 GPU). Though the X101-FPN backbone reports a slightly higher box average precision (43 % vs. 37.9 %), inference time is approximately 2.5 times slower, which would drastically increase the pipeline runtime.

Here are performance metrics on the model available for use; the model consists of the Faster-RCNN R50-FPN backbone from Detectron2's Model Zoo (all training was done on an AWS g4dn.2xlarge instance with a single NVIDIA T4 GPU) finetuned on the training set described above:

Category Average Precision # in Validation Set
Photograph 61.6% 879
Illustration 30.9% 206
Map 69.5% 34
Comic/Cartoon 65.6% 211
Editorial Cartoon 63.0% 54
Headline 74.3% 5,689
Advertisement 78.7% 2,858
Combined 63.4% 9,931

For slideshows showing the performance of this model on 50 sample pages from the Beyond Words test set, please see /demos/slideshow_predictions_filtered.mp4 (for the predictions filtered with a threshold cut of 0.5 on confidence score) and /demos/slideshow_predictions_unfiltered.mp4 (for the predictions with a very low, default threshold cut of 0.05 on confidence score).

Note: To use the model weights, import the model weights in PyTorch as usual, and set add following lines:

  • cfg.merge_from_file("/detectron2/configs/COCO-Detection/faster_rcnn_R_50_FPN_3x.yaml") #note that you may need to change the filepath to navigate to detectron2 correctly

To see more on how to run inference using this model, take a look at the pipeline code.

Extracting Captions and Textual Content using METS/ALTO OCR

Now that we have a finetuned model for extracting visual content from newspaper scans in Chronicling America, we can leverage the OCR of each scan to weakly supervise captions and corresponding textual content. Because Beyond Words volunteers were instructed to draw bounding boxes over corresponding textual content (such as titles and captions), the finetuned model has learned how to do this as well. Thus, it is possible to utilize the predicted bounding boxes to extract textual content within each predicted bounding box from the METS/ALTO OCR XML file for each Chronicling America page. Note that this is precisely what happens in Beyond Words during the "Transcribe" step, where volunteers correct the OCR within each bounding box. The code for extracting textual content from the METS/ALTO OCR is included in the pipeline and is described below.

Generating Image Embeddings

In order to generate search and recommendation results over similar visual content, it is useful to have pre-computed image embeddings for fast querying. In the pipeline, I have included code for generating image embeddings using a forked version of img2vec.

A Pipeline for Running at Scale

The pipeline code for processing 16.3 million Chronicling America pages can be found in /notebooks/process_chronam_pages.ipynb. This code relies on the repo chronam-get-images to produce manifests of each newspaper batch in Chronicling America. A .zip file containing the manifests can be found in this repo in

This notebook then:

  1. downloads the image and corresponding OCR for each newspaper page in each Chronicling America batch directly from the corresponding S3 buckets (note: you can alternatively download Chronicling America pages using chronam-get-images)
  2. performs inference on the images using the finetuned visual content detection model
  3. crops and saves the identified visual content (minus headlines)
  4. extracts textual content within the predicted bounding boxes using the METS/ALTO XML files containing the OCR for each page
  5. generates ResNet-18 and ResNet-50 embeddings for each cropped image using a forked version of img2vec for fast similarity querying
  6. saves the results for each page as a JSON file in a file tree that mirrors the Chronicling America file tree.

If you navigate to link coming soon, you will find the Newspaper Navigator dataset, which is indexed in the same manner as (each folder contains the data for a digitized newspaper batch, described here). If you replace the filepath for an image with .json and index into the dataset, you will find a JSON file corresponding to each page containing the following keys:

  • filepath [str]: the path to the image, assuming a starting point of
  • batch [str]: the Chronicling America batch containing this newspaper page
  • lccn [str]: the LCCN for the newspaper in which the page appears
  • pub_date [str]: the publication date of the page, in the format YYYY-MM-DD
  • edition_seq_num [int]: the edition sequence number
  • page_seq_num [int]: the page sequence number
  • boxes [list:list]: a list containing the coordinates of predicted boxes in YOLO format
  • scores [list:float]: a list containing the confidence score associated with each box
  • pred_classes [list:int]: a list containing the predicted class for each box; the classes are:
    1. Photograph
    2. Illustration
    3. Map
    4. Comics/Cartoon
    5. Editorial Cartoon
    6. Headline
    7. Advertisement
  • ocr [list:str]: a list containing the OCR within each box
  • visual_content_filepaths [list:str]: a list containing the filepath for all of the cropped visual content (except headlines, which were not cropped and saved). Note that the file name is formatted as [image_number]_[predicted class]_[confidence score (percent)].jpg.

If you then access the folder corresponding to the image, you will find the cropped visual content with the file names described in the JSON file. In this folder, you will also find embeddings.json, which contains the embeddings for all of the visual content (except headlines) with confidence scores greater than 50% (this threshold cut was made to limit the runtime of the pipeline). embeddings.json is structured as follows:

  • filepath [str]: the path to the scan of the newspaper page, assuming a starting point of
  • resnet_50_embeddings [list:list]: a list containing the 2,048-dimensional ResNet-50 embedding for each image (except headlines, for which embeddings aren't generated)
  • resnet_18_embeddings [list:list]: a list containing the 512-dimensional ResNet-50 embedding for each image (except headlines, for which embeddings aren't generated)
  • visual_content_filepaths [list:str]: a list containing the filepath for each cropped image (except headlines, which were not cropped and saved)

Once this code is finalized, this section will be updated, and the resulting Newspaper Navigator dataset will be released.

Visualizing a Day in Newspaper History

Using the chronam-get-images repo, we can pull down all of the Chronicling America content for a specific day in history (or, a larger date range if you're interested - the world is your oyster!). Running the above scripts, it's possible to go from a set of scans and OCR XML files to extracted visual content. How do we then visualize this content?

One answer is to use image embeddings and T-SNE to cluster the images in 2D. To accomplish this, I've used img2vec. Here, I've chosen to use the image embeddings. Using sklearn's implementation of T-SNE, it's easy to perform dimensionality reduction down to 2D, perfect for a visualization. We can then visualize a day in history!

For a sample visualization of June 7th, 1944 (the day after D-Day), please see visualizing_6_7_1944.png (NOTE: the image is 20 MB, enabling high resolution of images even when zooming in). If you search around in this visualization, you will find clusters of maps showing the Western Front, photographs of military action, and photographs of people. Currently, the aspect ratio of the extracted visual content is not preserved, but this is to be added in future iterations.

The script /demos/ contains my code for generating the sample visualization, though it is not currently in a state of supporting out-of-the-box functionality.

(This README will be updated as new commits are added).

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