“It’s an absolute fact. The history of the newspaper publishing industry is the history of failure,” says Ed King, the charismatic head of the British Library‘s newspaper collection. King paints a bleak picture – but he is overseeing the library’s ambitious attempt to make millions of pages of yesterday’s chip paper available online for the first time. This, he claims, could give “short-lived, ephemeral titles” a second birth.
The library is one year into its plan to digitise 40m news pages from its vast 750m collection, housed in Colindale, north London. This autumn, the library will reinvent its cavernous vaults as a website, where amateur genealogists and eager historians will be able to browse 19th-century newsprint from their home computer.
About half a million newspaper pages have been scanned to date. Fewer than a dozen staff clean, copy and upload roughly 8,000 pages a day – about enough to cover a football pitch. When it goes live, the site aims to display more than 1.5m pages, with 4m pages uploaded by the end of next year.
But the website – which will be freely accessible for Colindale visitors, but charge a modest sum to online users – is intended to be more than an internet archive of centuries-old newspapers. It will be an evolving encyclopedia of historical events, a compendium of stories of how people lived and died. In short, it will serve as a “national memory”, King says.
UK: "British Library Creates a 'National Memory' With Digital Newspaper Archive"
Filed by May 30, 2011on