British Newspaper Archive launched

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Last seen: 4 years 35 weeks ago
Joined: Sunday, 14-08-2011

The British Newspaper Archive has launched today, with millions of pages from historic (mainly 19th century) newspapers available to search for free, and to view for a fee.

Coverage of Shropshire newspapers is minimal at launch (just 63 issues of the Salopian Journal, covering the whole of 1835 and the first quarter of 1862!). That should change over time as the archive is an ongoing project which aims to digitize around 40 million newspaper pages over a 10 year period.

The relative paucity of Shropshire newspapers is compensated for to some extent by coverage of newspapers from adjacent c.o.u.n.t.i.e.s, in particular Herefordshire with 2435 issues of the Herefordshire Journal and 917 issues of the Hereford T.i.m.e.s online. When I took part in the site's limited beta test a few weekends ago, I found quite a few Shropshire stories relating to my Atcherley ancestors and cousins in Herefordshire newspapers. (I see the overzealous profanity filter here still doesn't like the entirely innocent words c.o.u.n.t.i.e.s and t.i.m.e.s, hence my use of full stops between the letters in those words.)

The quality of the results from the Optical Character Recognition software used to process the newspaper page scans is variable. Being familiar with the pitfalls of searching OCR text I searched for many known OCR variants of the name Atcherley during the beta testing weekend and found plenty of them. The letters c, e and o are interchangeable, as are n and u; h and b; y and v; t and l; and so on. Where the quality of the original newspaper page (or the scan of it) is particularly poor, all bets are off and the name ends up well and truly mangled. Despite this, I found lots of new Atcherley material during the beta test weekend.

There is a fair amount of overlap in the coverage of this new site and the existing 19th Century British Library Newspapers collection available from Gale (and accessible for free at home for members of some libraries - I get access via Lancashire County Library Services, which anyone can join even if they don't live in Lancs; the same seems to be true for Birmingham Libraries). Therefore it is worth cross-checking results from the new site with those from the existing one to ensure you don't pay for a page you can view for free. (Bear in mind that the results of the OCR processes used by the two sites may not be the same.)

There are three subscription packages available: £6.95 gives you 500 credits (100 page views at just under 7p a page) over a 2 day period; £29.95 gives you 3000 credits valid for 30 days; and £79.95 gives you unlimited access for a year.


Last seen: 9 years 19 weeks ago
Joined: Saturday, 4-06-2011

This seems to be broadly the same coverage as the Last Chance to Read website except they have images as snippets.


Last seen: 7 years 21 weeks ago
Joined: Friday, 22-07-2011

There is a lot more on there than on Last Chance to Read. It seem to me that it has the newspapers from 19th C. Brit. Lib. Newspapers, parts I & II.

The Wrexham Advertizer is useful for the area around Oswestry-St. Martins-West Felton-Kinnerley.