Center for Research Libraries - Global Resources Network

Resources for

World Newspaper Archive Update

James Simon
Director of International Resources, Center for Research Libraries


As first reported in the Winter 2008–09 issue of FOCUS on Global Resources, the World Newspaper Archive is the product of a collaborative initiative of CRL libraries and Readex, a division of NewsBank, to preserve and provide persistent access to historical newspapers from around the globe. The program launched in 2008 with the financial and in-kind support of CRL’s member institutions. The WNA has proven to be a widely popular measure, with 93 participating institutions investing more than $1.1 million in the conversion and long-term sustainability of international news resources.

Panama Star, February 24. 1849. From the World Newspaper Archive–Latin American Newspapers. From CRL collections.

Progress to Date

The World Newspaper Archive (WNA) currently provides online access to more than 250,000 issues, with 1.975 million pages of content selected by CRL and its member libraries. Three content modules are currently available to participating institutions:

  • Latin American Newspapers (LAN) was launched in December 2008 and is nearing completion of 34 long-running titles. The module contains 163,200 issues and nearly 1.2 million pages.
  • African Newspapers (SAN), launched in June 2010, has completed production on English language content for the module. This component currently contains nine titles (33,000 issues, and 399,500 of the projected 450,000 pages). Additional vernacular-language titles are on hold, pending the investigation of available technology for optical character recognition (OCR). The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

Two additional modules are currently in development:

  • Production on the East European Newspapers module has been halted due to technical issues with OCR and searching of Russian-language titles. CRL and its selectors for this module are exploring addition of alternate titles from Eastern Europe (in Roman characters). Readex is putting into place the technology necessary for cross-language searchability, and production is scheduled to resume in early 2012.
  • In May 2011 the WNA Advisory approved the development of a second module for Latin American Newspapers. This will be a significant addition to the content accessible through LAN I, projected to extend another million pages (see below).

Members continue to receive preferential access to WNA modules through CRL. For information on how to purchase, contact wna@crl.edu.

Content Highlights

The following descriptions of recently scanned titles from the three current modules highlight examples of the valuable resources now available for scholarly use.

Masthead of Diario de la Marina, October 1, 1900. From the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

Star & Herald (Panama City, Panama) 1849–1914

The Star & Herald began as two separate papers: The Panama Star, founded by three American gold rushers in 1849, and the Panama Herald, begun in 1851 as a competitor to the Star. The merged paper—renamed the Panama Star and Herald—began printing a section in Spanish under the subheading “La Estrella de Panama,” containing unique national and international articles of interest to the local population. The earliest issues of the Star and its successors provided advice to Americans traveling to Panama (“Surplus baggage will be an entanglement till it is lost, which fortunately generally happens before the owner reaches Panama.”1), warnings against fatigue and cholera, and harrowing tales of crossing the Isthmus in search of gold. The papers document the early tensions between the local populace and the evergrowing presence of America within Panama, culminating in the construction of the “transcontinental” railroad by the Panama Rail Road Co. (a U.S. company with exclusive rights for construction granted by the government of Colombia).

Nigerian Chronicle (Lagos, Nigeria) 1908–15

The Nigerian Chronicle was among the first Nigerian-owned newspapers published in the wake of British consolidation of control in the region. Covering news affecting the “two Nigerias” (the southern and northern protectorates were unified in 1914), the Chronicle sought to provide both reporting of events and opinion alike; its analytical approach and editorial style were highly regarded. An antecedent of later nationalist papers of the 1920s and beyond, the Nigerian Chronicle was the first to use the term “Nigeria” in its name, anticipating the political changes of its day.

Tribune (Lahore, Pakistan) 1881–1922

First published in 1881 in Lahore (then in the frontier province of Punjab under the British Raj), the Tribune quickly established itself as an organ of public opinion. Deliberately published in English (both due to vernacular press restrictions and a desire to reach a broader readership among the colonial presence), the paper took on the role of the voice of the public and pressed for rights of the native people. As such, it aligned itself with popular causes, such as the founding of the Indian National Congress (1885) and opposing the partition of Bengal (1905).

Future Activity

The WNA continues as a sustainable program of the CRL membership. Member investment is provided directly to CRL and goes back into the program for additional conversion activity. Selection and the disposition of assets are controlled by the community, which also guarantees long-term access to the content through preservation of the digital and physical assets.

In FY2012, WNA will proceed with the aforementioned EEN and a second module for LAN. Title selection is underway, and CRL encourages members to suggest titles or source content.

The WNA advisory has recommended the following areas of emphasis:

  • Deep content: In general, scholars have indicated a preference for long runs of significant papers of record.
  • Different perspectives: The history of print news is rife with divergent opinions, from indigenous press to underground ephemera. In addition to mainstream media, scholars are finding fruit in the lesser-collected resources, often held in short and scattered holdings. Where possible, WNA will convert full runs of titles that represent a diversity of opinion from regions and specific countries.
  • Contemporary coverage: More than any other request, CRL is asked for more current coverage of titles. WNA establishes its preliminary collections through digitization of material in the public domain (generally, up through 1922). However, many of the important titles continued well into the 20th century (some, prominently, still publishing today). In the coming modules, WNA will aggressively explore additional content that extends the coverage of these critical world regions, seeking permissions of publishers where appropriate.
  • Expanded areas: As originally envisioned, WNA is a multiregional database, covering major regions such as the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and more. CRL and Readex are committed to extending the coverage of WNA as its constituencies govern. CRL welcomes feedback on regions and titles to pursue in the coming years.

For more information on the World Newspaper Archive, contact James Simon, Director, Global Resources Network, 773-955-4545 ext. 324; jsimon@crl.edu.