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MP Robert Halfon asks question on digitisation of local newspapers

General / Mon 22nd Nov 2021 at 08:08am

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon rose on the floor of the House of Commons to ask a number of questions regarding the digitisation of printed newspapers.

Harlow had printed newspapers from March 1953 to January 2019.

The only available copies are in Halrow Museum.

Nigel Huddleston, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport replied:

The Minister for Work on improving and maintaining access to local newspaper records and archives is led by colleagues at the British Library and The National Archives respectively, using funding from their core budgets.

The British Library collects physical newspapers and online news sites under legal deposit. The additional work the British Library does in this area makes newspapers as accessible as possible at no cost to the taxpayer. It holds a newspaper collection of over 60 million issues (450 million pages) dating from 1619 to the present day, and since 2010 has been working on a strategy to preserve and protect newspapers for researchers and the general public. This includes working in partnership with Findmypast to produce the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), an online subscription resource enabling online access to historic digitised newspapers while creating preservation files for the British Library’s Digital Library Store. The BNA is free to access in British Library Reading Rooms.

The task of digitising archived physical material is substantial, but progress is being made both through central projects, with c. 46 million pages digitised since 2011, and through partnerships between the British Library and local libraries such as Birmingham, Wexford, Jersey and Shropshire. Projects undertaken with local libraries and councils allow local services to benefit from the expertise of the British Library on a cost recovery basis (i.e. not for profit).

In terms of improving access to archives, The National Archives has been delivering against its Archives Unlocked strategy since 2017. In order to achieve this, The National Archives works to support the Archives sector to develop digital capacity, build resilience and demonstrate impact through innovation and by building new audiences. Officials from The National Archives have collaborated with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the Culture is Digital project, to highlight where the archives sector can demonstrate leadership (such as digitisation) as well as develop and grow alongside other cultural bodies.

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