The British Library today announced it is set to digitise up to 40 million pages of national newspapers from the Newspaper Library at Colindale making them available online for the first time.
The British Library is partnering with online publishing company Brightsolid to digitise the newspapers over the next ten years.
The British Library’s chief executive Dame Lynne Brindley called it ‘the most significant programme of newspaper digitisation this country has ever seen’, speaking in London today.
She said: “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 online archive will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911. Additional categories will be developed looking at key events and themes such as the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement. The aim will be to build a ‘critical mass’ of material for researchers – particularly in the fields of family history and genealogy.”
The library will move the hard-copy collections from the current building at Colindale to a purpose-built storage facility in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.
As well as out of copyright material (pre-1900) the library will also seek to digitise in-copyright newspapers with the permission of the owners. It is planned that access will then be made available for a fee online.
David Fordham, president of the Newspaper Society, 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 at Colindale. 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.”