“Cheerless and drab but ‘full of amazing stuff’. The British Library Newspapers collection at Colindale is moving and also becoming increasingly digitised. Huw Richards wonders if researchers will miss the feel of the paper beneath their fingers
// The journey to the far reaches of the Northern Line’s Edgware branch always did feel rather like time travel – an impression accentuated about 20 years ago when London Underground managers admitted that, on the “next train” indicators on that creaky, rattling stretch of line, one minute really was longer than 60 seconds.
Head out of the Tube station, cross the road and there stands the 1930s blockhouse that houses British Library Newspapers, known simply to its users as Colindale. There can be few historians, at least those concerned with the history of modern Britain, who have not made that journey. For many doctoral students it was the foundation of their research, requiring months of sustained attention to bound volumes and microfilm.
Not, however, for much longer. The announcement in mid-October of a £33 million capital grant, part of a government package for the cultural and creative industries, was Colindale’s death sentence. The hard copies – a collection estimated to total 750 million newspaper pages – will go to a new, purpose-built facility at Boston Spa in Yorkshire, while the 400,000 reels of micro-film and digital access will move to join the rest of the British Library at St Pancras, nine stops and 26 minutes down the Northern Line.”