British Library Makes 300 Years of Newspapers Searchable Online

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The British Library and BrightSolid Online Publishing have teamed up to digitize up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s collection over the next 10 years. There is also a searchable online newspaper archive that consists of three million pages of newspaper content originally funded as part of a £3m contribution from JISC in addition to the millions of pages coming from the BrightSolid contribution.

“We have scanned millions of pages of historical newspapers and made them available online for the first time ever,” the project’s creators say. “Search millions of articles by keyword, name, location, date or title and watch your results appear in an instant. Compare this with hours of painstaking manual searching through hard copies or microfilm often requiring a visit to the British Library in North London and it is easy to appreciate the ground breaking nature of this project.”

The collection covers most runs of newspapers published in the UK since 1800. “The scale of the newspaper publishing industry from the early 19th century onwards is enormous, with many cities and towns publishing several newspapers simultaneously, often aimed at distinct audiences depending on social status, geographical location and political affiliation. The first stage of this project focuses on runs published before 1900 and will include titles from cities such as Birmingham, Derby, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Leeds and York, along with local titles from London boroughs,” the creators say. “Newspapers which aimed for county circulation - from Staffordshire to Sussex - will also feature prominently, providing an unrivalled picture of provincial life spanning the whole of the 19th century.”

British News Archive

What you can search with the service:

  • News articles
  • Family notices (births, marriages, deaths, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, congratulations)
  • Letters (to the editor)
  • Obituaries
  • Advertisements (classifieds, shipping notices, appointments, illustrations, editorial cartoons, etc.)

As part of the process, each page is segmented into “classified zones” designed to help users search more efficiently.

The team behind the project has been scanning up to 8,000 digital images per day from the original bound newspaper pages. This includes what the team calls “some of the rarest and most fragile newspapers”. Some pages, the team says, are as big as two feed wide.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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