Tuesday, October 23, 2007

British Library Puts Victorian Newspapers Online

One million pages of text from nineteenth-century newspapers went online last night [22 October] as part of a British Library project to increase public access to important historical resources.

The Newspapers Digitisation Project: British Newspapers 1800-1900, launched in partnership with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), will enable scholars and others to search the text of 46 regional newspapers from around the UK, dating back to 1800.

The online digital archive offers free access to lecturers and students in higher and further education institutions and to British Library visitors with reader passes, who can access it from the library's reading rooms in London's Kings Cross.

Users are able to search across the different newspaper titles to draw together materials relating to a wide range of research and learning topics. Researchers can discover, for example, how the Whitechapel murders were covered in the Birmingham Daily Post, how the Battle of Trafalgar was captured in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, and how the Belfast News Letter reported the scramble for west Africa.

The website, developed over the past three years by Gale/Cengage Learning, the world's largest publisher of reference databases and digital collections, will allow users to search through material previously available only in hard-copy form or through microform or CD-ROMs in the library's newspaper archive in Colindale, north London.

The journals available online have been chosen by a team of experts and academics, and include regional publications from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and specialist titles covering, for example, Victorian radicalism and Chartism.

Launching the archive last night, Sir Colin Lucas, chairman of the British Library, said: "Traditionally, access to these newspapers has meant you get a newspaper on to a desk and turn each page, which can be laborious and has the risk you may miss something. If you are an old historian like me, that's the great pleasure in it. But nowadays, people need the kind of search engine that will throw up 150,000 references to steam ships."

He added that a major reason for digitising the archive was to find a long-term way of preserving journals.

"Research by UK communities relies on access to the very best publications and information sources for its survival. The creation of this new website . . . has created a vital online research tool providing the very best resources for the UK's higher and further education communities."

The initial one million pages, funded by £1m from the JISC, is the first phase of the library's digital archive project. More pages from the nineteenth-century journals will be added over the coming months. The library also has plans to digitise seventeenth- and eighteenth-century publications, and has secured an additional £1m from JISC to help cover costs.

By the end of 2008, the British Library hopes to digitise 3,000,000 pages of British newspapers and to offer worldwide access to that collection via a sophisticated searching and browsing interface on the web.

(via EducationGuardian.co.uk, 23 October 2007)


Sheila said...

This is so cool! I have been looking for something like this. I love everything about the Victorian era, and can now see it all, so to speak!!

S said...

Wow thanks this little bit of information will help loads with my degree dissertation

Anonymous said...

wow this should help

Kristan Tetens said...

I've updated the main link...please note that this post was published in 2007. The BL website contains up-to-date information.

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