29 Nov 2011

British Newspaper Archive now online

The British Library has launched a new website which enables users to view digitised copies of newspapers from Britain and Ireland from the 18th and 19th centuries. For the moment, there is not much from the 20th century as this involves all sorts of copyright issues. Four million pages have already been made available and, in ten year's time, when the project is complete, forty million pages will be online. The archive is free to search but, unfortunately, to view the content, users will need to pay a subscription. The service seems to be similar to the Irish Newspaper Archives, where users need to pay to view historical newspaper articles, though some libraries provide their patrons with free access.

It is certain to be a huge treasure trove for both amateur and professional genealogists alike, however it does raise some questions:

  • Should important historical information like this be free for all, or, as there are significant costs in scanning and uploading the material, is it better to make the person accessing the content pay as opposed to the taxpayer?
  • With local newspapers either downscaling or going bust completely, is there likely to be much less regional material likely to be available for researchers, genealogists and historians of the future?

1 comment:

  1. I would disagree that there may be less regional material available in the future simply because of the growth of digital publishing. The sources may be different (blogs, digital archives etc.) but the content will likely be there once it is preserved appropriately (a big if!). Projects like the NLIs recent online archiving of election websites is a good example of the potential in this area at a local / regional level.