Friday, June 11, 2004

A Portal into the Past

According to this BBC report, the British Library is planning to digitize and put online 1 million pages of 19th century British newspapers. This is quite an exciting prospect for anyone who's interested in history - now we'll be able to get firsthand views of important events as they were perceived as they occurred, rather than through the distorting filter of textbooks.

More than a million pages from 19th Century British newspapers are to be put online by the British Library.
The £2m project will cover 100 years of news and images from newspapers which are out of copyright.
At the moment, anyone wanting to look at the texts needs to visit the Newspaper Library in Colindale, North London.
A searchable website with digital copies of the newspapers is expected to be ready in 18 months' time.

National resource

Among the national papers that are expected to be digitised is The Morning Chronicle, a reformist newspaper which employed Charles Dickens as a reporter and W M Thackeray as art critic.
Another likely candidate is the Morning Post, which featured articles by Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
Editorials, advertisements and photographs will be archived, as well as news reports, as they are seen as providing insights into the values of British society at the time.
Hasn't anyone elsewhere thought of something like this before, and if not, why not? At any rate, here's an excellent argument for opposing the seemingly perpetual extension of copyrights as has been in the case in the United States; I for one would love to be able to peruse influential 19th and early 20th century periodicals like Punch, Kladderadatsch and Simplicissimus from the comfort of my armchair.

ADDENDUM: Actually, I spoke too soon: a digitized archive of Kladderadatsch is available online, and it seems to contain all issues from 1848 to 1944.