The Sunday Papers

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One of the keys to any understanding of history is good scholarship, and good scholarship is impossible without the ability to consult source material, perferably authentic materials from the time in question.  I am happy to report that source material concerning England under Victoria has now become infinitively easier to access and search.

A vast number of newspaper editions from the period are now available through a special program at participating libraries. These newspapers will provide anyone with an interest (and access to a participating library) the ability to research any number of Victorian topics for themselves.

Now, do you think they will allow us to access the newspapers via the Caledon Library? This sounds like a job for the unstoppable Mr. Drinkwater for certain.

The following is reposted from Guardian Education.

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Similarly, the archives of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine from 1850 are online (available to subscribers only) at http://www.harpers.org and those of the New York Times from 1851 at http://www.nytimes.com. No doubt we have more such resources to look forward to in the future.


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