British Library Image of Illustrated War Special cover The British Library will make up to 40 million pages from its national newspaper collection available online as part of a new digitised archive.

In a 10-year agreement with brightsolid, a subsidiary of publisher DC Thomson that produces Friends Reunited, a minimum of 4 million newspaper pages will be added to the digital archive in the first two years.

The library holds a collection of pages in hard copy and microfilm from 52,000 local, regional, national and international titles spanning three centuries at its Newspaper Library in Colindale. The new digital archive will be free to use on the British Library's site. The plans are part of the British Library Newspaper Programme, which includes an investment of £33 million in a new storage facility for the library's newspaper collection and the launch of its digital archive of 19th-Century UK newspaper pages in June.

"Historic newspapers are an invaluable resource for historians, researchers, genealogists, students and many others, bringing past events and people to life with great immediacy and in rich detail. Mass digitisation unlocks the riches of our newspaper collections by making them available online to users across the UK and around the world; by making these pages fully searchable we will transform a research process which previously relied on scrolling through page after page of microfilm or print. brightsolid have an excellent track record of digitising archive materials and making them available to new audiences - I look forward to announcing the web service resulting from this partnership, which will launch and then steadily grow from next year," says Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, in a press release. [See Brindley's announcement in the video below]

"Digitised material will include extensive coverage of local, regional and national press across three and a half centuries. It will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911. Additional categories will be developed looking at key events and themes such as the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement. The aim will be to build a 'critical mass' of material for researchers - particularly in the fields of family history and genealogy."

Out-of-copyright material, defined in this context as pre-1900 newspaper material, will feature alongside in-copyright material, which the library and brightsolid hope to secure through rights negotiations with publishers.

"This initiative is a hugely significant and exciting development which will unlock many of the great newspaper treasures that lie within the millions of pages in the British Library Newspaper archive at Colindale. It represents a particularly exciting opportunity for regional newspapers which have a long and rich heritage and capture changing times in local and regional areas across the centuries. I look forward to watching the project develop and hope that it makes a major contribution to the industry," says David Fordham, president of the Newspaper Society, in the release.

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