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Abstract

The massive amounts of digitized historical documents acquired over the last decades naturally lend themselves to automatic processing and exploration. Research work seeking to automatically process facsimiles and extract information thereby are multiplying with, as a first essential step, document layout analysis. Although the identification and categorization of segments of interest in document images have seen significant progress over the last years thanks to deep learning techniques, many challenges remain with, among others, the use of more fine-grained segmentation typologies and the consideration of complex, heterogeneous documents such as historical newspapers. Besides, most approaches consider visual features only, ignoring textual signal. We introduce a multimodal neural model for the semantic segmentation of historical newspapers that directly combines visual features at pixel level with text embedding maps derived from, potentially noisy, OCR output. Based on a series of experiments on diachronic Swiss and Luxembourgish newspapers, we investigate the predictive power of visual and textual features and their capacity to generalize across time and sources. Results show consistent improvement of multimodal models in comparison to a strong visual baseline, as well as better robustness to the wide variety of our material.

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