Nov. 29 - The British Library is having its newspaper collection digitized and put online as an archive accessible to the public all over the world. Penny Tweedie reports.
Until now in the UK, if you wanted to look at a historic newspaper it was hard work. You would need to get yourself to Colindale in North London to the British Library newspaper store and then trawl through huge bound copies of newspapers to find the information you wanted. But now all that information will be available at a click of a button . Because the British Library is having tens of thousands of copies of its ancient newspapers put on line. Head of the newspaper collection at the British Library, Ed King : SOUNDBITE : Ed King, Head of the newspaper collection, British Library saying: (English) " Well the library formed a partnership with BrightSolid last year to realize the scanning and placing on line of 40 million pages of newspaper over the next ten years. AS we launch this product there will be up to 4 million pages available straight away." Debra Chatfield from online publishers Bright Solid said it was a massive project: SOUNDBITE: Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager, Bright Solid, saying: (English) "This has been a multi million pound investment for BrightSolid but it's a project we are doing over ten years - it's the biggest mass digitisation of newspaper archive projects that's ever been done in the U.K so it has been a considerable investment but it's a really exciting project and at the moment we have 12 billion words on line that can search from today." This is called the stack - it is where nearly every single UK paper for the past two hundred years has been stored. There are 200 miles of shelving storing papers dating back to the 1700's. But its condition is deteriorating from being handled. NOw it can be accessed from anywhere in the world while the original copies are preserved. . And all life is there from heart breaking letters home from the first world war to adverts for miracle cures and details of long forgotten cricket matches. SOUNDBITE : Ed King, Head of the newspaper collection, British Library saying: (English) "All the words in the newspaper of every page will be searchable so people can search for absolutely anything, you can search for your ancestors you can search political events you can search in a myriad of ways it's going to be a wonderful resource a treasure trove to explore. ". Digitizing such a vast collection is long an painstaking work, A unit has been set up in the Colindale base of the British Library dedicated to carefully scanning every single page - one at a time. . Scanning machines have been specially modified and creases are literally ironed out. While the British Library have paid nothing for the project but Bright Solid hope to recoup their massive investment by charging customers to download their searches and providing packages to educational and media outlets. Penny Tweedie, Reuters.