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Library to digitise 300 years of local newspapers

The British Library today announced it is to digitise its vast collection of local, regional and national newspapers dating back to the early 1700s.

Over the next ten years, the Library aims to make up to 40m newspaper pages available online in what is being called the biggest mass digitisation project the country has ever seen.

Spanning three centuries and including 52,000 local, regional, national and international titles, the Library’s archive at Colindale, North London is one of the world’s biggest collections of newspapers.

The digitisation project, which will be carried out in partnership with IT business provider brightsolid, was announced by the Library’s chief executive Dame Lynne Brindley at Westminster this morning.

She said: “I am delighted to announce the British Library’s partnership with brightsolid to embark upon the most significant programme of newspaper digitisation this country has ever seen.

“Historic newspapers are an invaluable resource for historians, researchers, genealogists, students and many others, bringing past events and people to life with great immediacy and in rich detail.

“Mass digitisation unlocks the riches of our newspaper collections by making them available online to users across the UK and around the world. By making these pages fully searchable we will transform a research process which previously relied on scrolling through page after page of microfilm or print.

“The British Library’s newspaper archive is one of the world’s great newspaper collections. Through this partnership with brightsolid we will make millions more pages accessible – and to many more people.”

Newspaper Society president David Fordham said: “This initiative is a hugely significant and exciting development which will unlock many of the great newspaper treasures that lie within the millions of pages in the British Library Newspaper archive.

“It represents a particularly exciting opportunity for regional newspapers which have a long and rich heritage and capture changing times in local and regional areas across the centuries. I look forward to watching the project develop and hope that it makes a major contribution to the industry.”

Each year the Newspaper Library at Colindale is used by 30,000 researchers in subjects ranging from family history and genealogy to sports statistics, politics and industrial history. This vast resource is held mainly in hard copy and microfilm.

The Library plans to move the hard-copy collections from Colindale to a new purpose-built storage facility in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, with the digital copies made available at the Library’s main site at St Pancras.


Reader (19/05/2010 15:51:20)
Yes, great project. BUT…use of the material will only be free to anyone who goes to the library. If you want to access it online, you will have to pay. A nice little earner for Brighsolid and it’s bloody outrageous. Do an FOI someone and find out how much they are being paid for the contract. Then ask, why the hell couldn’t this be paid for from public funds? The money would be recoverable in due course from advertising and added value services online. Instead, we’re all going to get reamed by this company as THEY sell and re-sell their priviledged access to the material. Shameful.

Devil’s Advocate (20/05/2010 13:17:16)
Having said that, Brightsolid is owned by local newspaper publisher DC Thomson, so at least the funds will flow into our industry!