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World Newspaper Archive Update

James Simon


A May 11, 1915 El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile) article on a meeting of the Liberal Alliance.

The World Newspaper Archive is a collaborative effort of the Center for Research Libraries and its partner institutions to preserve and provide persistent electronic access to historical newspapers from around the globe. The program was launched in 2008 with the financial and in-kind support of CRL's member institutions.

Background

Through a century of major, sustained investment in acquisition, documentation, and preservation, North American research libraries have amassed a large and valuable corpus of newspapers from all regions of the world. Those libraries' aggregate holdings of newspapers in paper and micro-formats constitute a body of historical and cultural evidence spanning four centuries, which is not, and could not be, replicated elsewhere. While preservation of global newspapers on microform has enjoyed sustained support in the United States and elsewhere, there is comparably little being done to capture or convert these resources into electronic format. The National Digital Newspaper Program, the flagship effort in the United States, addresses only U.S. newspaper content and is still early in its implementation. Institutions in Europe and other developed countries have begun to launch efforts to convert their own historical contents, but the scale of these efforts is daunting. The Center for Research Libraries has traditionally focused its cooperative preservation efforts on areas with less robust infrastructure in terms of preservation and digitization capacity. CRL has microfilmed news titles from Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia since 1956. Under the World Newspaper Archive effort, the Center and its affiliated member institutions intend to undertake the systematic, large scale digitization of this corpus of world newspapers and news-related materials. The World Newspaper Archive is envisioned as an ongoing, multi-year and multi-stage endeavor wherein CRL and affiliates will combine expertise and resources to digitize and make available for scholarly use their holdings of newspapers from several world regions. The first phase of the effort involves content from Latin America, starting initially with material in the public domain and extending the effort over a number of phases. Details of the effort are currently found on the CRL Web site

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Goals

With the World Newspaper Archive, we hope to accomplish three things:

  1. Community AccessNewsBank, through its Readex Division, will provide electronic access to back files of newspapers from microform and paper holdings of CRL and several major newspaper repositories. Participating repositories include Harvard University, the New York Public Library, the University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, University of Florida, Princeton University, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles. The World Newspaper Archive will employ the robust and reliable platform for search and discovery that supports Readex Early American Newspapers and Hispanic American Newspapers collections. The annual access fee will be nominal for CRL members and partner libraries that have contributed support and/or content to create the collection.
  2. PersistenceCRL will guarantee the long-term persistence and continued functionality of the news content for the CRL community. We aim to ensure not only persistent access, but CRL member control over the future costs and quality of that access.

    Moreover, the process of locating and preparing these materials for digitization is generating valuable preservation metadata and information about the existent holdings of these rare materials. This "last-copy" information will be made available by CRL through the International Coalition on Newspaper (ICON) database, to guide librarians in their decisions about preserving and digitizing their local holdings. The project is also subsidizing the cost of replacing lost, damaged, or deteriorated microform copies of the newspapers.

  3. GrowthNewsBank shares with CRL a strong commitment to identifying and preserving primary source materials for international studies and research worldwide. This new working relationship will give the CRL library community a voice in the digital conversion of the news collections that they have preserved for the past century in print and microform.

    We also hope, with NewsBank, to make available to the CRL community a growing corpus of electronic news content on favorable terms.

Preliminary Release

The preliminary release of Latin American Newspapersa World Newspaper Archive collectionwas issued on December 8, 2008. This preliminary release provides more than 60,000 pages of El Mercurio, an important Spanish-language paper published in Santiago, Chile. The WNA Latin American collection will be a rolling release, with completion of the estimated 900,000 pages scheduled to be released by fall 2009. Approximately 70,000 pages will be processed monthly, with periodic releases of new titles. On completion, Latin American Newspapers will include approximately 35 fully searchable newspapers printed throughout this region in the 19th and 20th centuries. CRL will guarantee the long-term persistence and continued functionality of the news content for the CRL community.

Future Phases

Such an ambitious initiative, featuring a massive amount of data from several world regions, will require an ongoing, multi-stage commitment by CRL and affiliated libraries to combine expertise and resources, to digitize and make available holdings of newspapers. Nonetheless, CRL is committed to extending the project to different world regions and is in the planning stage of prioritizing next phases. It is likely that the program will continue under the present model of focusing the first release of a world region on a larger body of material in the public domain (pre-1923), with subsequent modules adding new titles and/or extending existing titles into the copyright era. This might include orphaned works and/or involve entering into discussions with existing publishers on a limited basis. CRL member institutions with holdings of news titles in microform are encouraged to contact the jsimon [at] crl [dot] edu (author) to provide information on complementary collections of material as well as interest in collaboration.