Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Treasure Trove from the British Library

The British Library has launched a major new digitization project, the British Newspaper Archive, which currently offers around 4,000,000 searchable pages from over 200 different newspapers. The papers were published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and date mainly from the nineteenth century, although some newspapers' runs extend back to the mid-eighteenth century. Searching the Archive is free, but viewing the content, either through the pay-per-view option or by subscription, is fee based unless you access the Archive in person at one of three British Library Reading Rooms. The project is a collaboration between the British Library and brightsolid, a British digital publishing firm. Digitization continues at the rate of 8,000 new pages a day, with the goals of scanning 40,000,000 newspaper pages over the next ten years.

Newspapers have been called the "raw material of history" by no less an expert than historian Henry Steele Commager. In the British Newspaper Archive, researchers will discover

Exhaustive coverage of crime and punishment ... Eyewitness accounts of social transformation ... Illustrations and advertisements ... first-hand accounts of [newsworthy] events ... and countless vivid details of how our ancestors lived and died.

At the moment, only newspapers that are out of coyright are included in the project, but the collaborators have secured "permission from one publisher to digitise newspaper runs up to the mid 20th century."

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