As someone who spent hours and hours in the Newspaper archives at Colindale, this is exceptionally good news. It’s also interesting to see that the documents are not being scanned simply as electronic-paper, but there are plans to use that digital information to create an ‘encyclopedia of memory’, a ‘national memory’. Interestingly, the project is being worked on by the people behind Genes Reunited (yes, the people behind Friends Reunited… my first social network!)… due to issues of copyright, the current plans are to digitise to 1900, although the expectation is that it will continue to at least World War I/The Suffragettes, and then much more difficult discussions have to take place! The website, when ready, will be free if you’re at Colindale (which I thought had closed down!), but for ‘a modest sum’ for internet users (better than the long journey out, I guess!)
“It’s an absolute fact. The history of the newspaper publishing industry is the history of failure,” says Ed King, the charismatic head of the British Library‘s newspaper collection. King paints a bleak picture – but he is overseeing the library’s ambitious attempt to make millions of pages of yesterday’s chip paper available online for the first time. This, he claims, could give “short-lived, ephemeral titles” a second birth.
The library is one year into its plan to digitise 40m news pages from its vast 750m collection, housed in Colindale, north London. This autumn, the library will reinvent its cavernous vaults as a website, where amateur genealogists and eager historians will be able to browse 19th-century newsprint from their home computer.
“This is going to be a huge bonus for us,” says King, one of Britain’s most celebrated librarians. “It’s been available for 80 years here. It will now be further available much, much more widely than just here, so people don’t have to come up the Northern Line.”
Read full story in yesterday’s Guardian.