The British Library Archive represents one of the most significant historical resources in the world. 4.7 million pages, and 52,000 titles are being held as a digital collection of newspapers and journals, with an emphasis primarily falling on the 19th and 18th centuries. Having previously been held at reading rooms in Colindale in North London, the British Library and partner Brightsolid have been committed to digitising and making the archive available for a fee, with work having been expanded since 2008 to a 2011 launch.
The benefits of the catalogue include searchable pages that use optical scanning, as well as the opportunity to cross reference a number of different publications. Most of the access to this collection will be via a limited pay wall, although users that can visit the British Library in King’s Cross will have free access. With exhaustive levels of content, and new pages being added every day, the British Library Archive is fast becoming a crucial resource for scholars of the 19th and 18th century.
Particularly important is the access to local histories and adverts, reproduced in high quality and much easier to search through than wading through bound copies and examining microfilm. The regional papers allow for extensive family historical research, and should provide a comprehensive resource for scholars looking to build more specific histories of particular periods.
Coverage also includes detailed records from census years between 1841 and 1911, as well as examples of Victorian prose, advertisements and other materials reproduced in papers. Some of the benefits of this expanded database can already be seen in publications based on the archives, which range from studies of British criminal records that make the most of high quality images and sources, through to comprehensive dictionaries of the British press in the 19th and late 18th century.
A key appeal of the British Library Archive will therefore be its speed and its wide access, albeit with a paywall in place. University affiliation will help to overcome these problems, as will on site usage of the archive. The British Library and digitisation partner Brightsolid are also organising partnerships with other major academic search engines and publishers to ensure that content is more widely distributed. Partners include JISC and Gale-Cengage.
Database connections with Gale Cengage promise particularly wide access, with the collection currently including 49 titles for 1800 and 1900, with open access provided for researchers. The British Newspapers collection will be made available to Further and Higher Education within the UK, and is available via a license. Access may be limited outside of specific searches.
It is also expected that as rights negotiations progress, more recent newspapers and other publications will be made available online as part of the same collections. 20th century newspapers and other content tend to have stricter rights, or proprietary deals already in place with publishers. However, back catalogue rights holders are moving towards expanded deals with search engines like Google for limited search and download capabilities. At the same time, it is expected that future editions of papers will be more readily available, due to current digitisation and online content reproduction.
Christina reviews the British Library Archive collection of digital historical newspapers and journals. Gale Cengage Learning is a world leader in e-research and educational publishing for business, schools and libraries. Visit Gale today for more than 600 databases of educational material.